Yet More Evidence That You Should Stay Away From Hospitals on Weekends

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A couple of months ago I blogged about a study showing that your odds of dying after elective surgery are a lot higher if the surgery is done on a Friday or a weekend. Most likely, this is due to lower staffing levels during the 48 hours after surgery, which is when most complications set in. The moral of the story was pretty simple: if you have a choice, get your surgery done between Monday and Thursday.

Today brings further evidence of the folly of going to the hospital on the weekend. This one comes courtesy of Aaron Carroll, who points us to a study of infants admitted to pediatric hospitals with a diagnosis of failure to thrive. Basically, this means that the baby isn’t gaining weight as quickly as normal, or is even losing weight, and I gather from Aaron’s post that it’s rarely an emergency situation. However, it involves lots of tests and consults, and those tests and consults often aren’t available on weekends. As a result, nothing happens until all the doctors and technicians return to work on Monday.

The chart on the right shows how this works out. If your baby is admitted on a weekday, the average length of stay is five days and the average cost is about $9,000. But if your baby is admitted on a weekend, the average length of stay is seven days and the average cost is about $13,000. For all practical purposes, it looks like the babies just sit around over the weekend and then start getting treated on Monday.

Obviously you don’t always have a choice of what day you go to the hospital. But if you do, don’t go on a weekend. Stick to weekdays, when there are actually doctors around to treat you.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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