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Emergency care in hospitals may be weaker on the weekends, study finds

People with serious medical conditions who make emergency visits to the hospital on weekends are more likely to die than those admitted on weekdays, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers examined 3.8 million emergency hospitalizations between 1988 and 1997, and compared in-hospital mortality rates among weekend and weekday patients. For several critical conditions, including ruptured aortas and acute leukemia, the results showed higher mortality among the weekend patients. No condition showed the opposite pattern. Reduced hospital-staffing levels and less experienced weekend staff affect the calibre of patient care, says Dr. Don Redelmeier, the study’s senior author, a professor of medicine at U of T and director of clinical epidemiology at Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre. “Our study indicates high-quality care saves lives,” he says. “If we could make weekend care as good as weekday care, the health-care system might be even better than it is today.” Chaim Bell, a PhD student at U of T, was the study’s co-author.

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