Ask a medical malpractice lawyer and he or she will tell you, without hesitation, that more hospital negligence occurs on weekends and holidays than during week days. Now trial lawyers’ anecdotal evidence of the hazards associated with weekend and holiday admissions is backed up by recently published medical articles.
In 2001, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article confirming that the risk of dying from a serious medical condition is greater on weekends. The likely culprit is understaffing, even though there is no reason to believe that the disease burden is any less at these times. In fact, shouldn’t a hospital reasonably expect an increase in hospitalizations as travel and other activities increase and lead to more accidents?
More recently, the journal Neurology published a study showing that the risk of dying from a stroke was greater on weekends than through the week. The risk of understaffing for stroke patients is compounded on weekends because a team of caregivers is required to make a prompt diagnosis and promptly deliver time-sensitive treatment. A stroke patient is likely to require the services of an emergency room physician, a neuroradiologist, a neurologist and an interventional specialist. If any one of these links in the chain is missing, treatment may be delayed with disastrous results for the patient.
Hospitals are required by law to furnish sufficient services to meet the needs of the community that they serve. This includes providing adequate staff to handle critical patient needs on weekends and holidays. When it comes to medical emergencies, there are no “off-times.” When a hospital fails to meet these obligations and harm results, under Ohio law, a potential claims for hospital negligence exists.