You may have heard that it’s not a good idea to schedule surgery or any kind of medical procedure over the end-of-year holidays because hospitals and medical facilities are understaffed or staffed by more junior doctors and other professionals.
Some patients find this time preferable for procedures that require a hospital stay and/or recovery time because they’re off work anyway. But is it indeed more dangerous? Assuming that your doctor isn’t spending the holiday season scuba diving in Cabo or skiing in Banff, should you avoid scheduling non-emergency care?
Study looked at outcomes over a 14-year period
That’s what some Canadian researchers wanted to know. A study published in 2018 analyzed the records of nearly 671,000 patients who received treatment at Ontario acute-care hospitals between 2002 and 2016. They compared the outcomes of those discharged during the holiday period (including Christmas and New Year’s) and those discharged before or after that period.
Among their findings were the following for those discharged during the holidays:
- They had “a small increased risk, and they were considerably less likely to have a follow-up with the physician,” according to the study’s author.
- They were more slightly likely to be readmitted to the hospital and/or die over the month after they were discharged.
- Overall, “per 100,000 patients, 26 excess deaths, 188 excess rehospitalizations, 483 excess visits to an emergency department, and 2,999 fewer follow up appointments could be attributed to being discharged from hospital during the December holidays.”
Of course, doctors caution that you should never neglect needed care over the holidays. A lot of factors increase the need for emergency treatment. Injuries caused by putting up Christmas lights or trying out that new snowboard, heart attacks caused by stress and any number of issues that result from too much eating and drinking are just a few of the reasons people need to seek medical treatment during this time of year.
It’s crucial that patients get the same standard of care regardless of when they need it. If you or a loved one suffered harm because of poor quality care or outright negligence or error, it’s important to know what your rights are to seek compensation and justice.