NEW YORK -
For-profit hospitals in the US
show higher death rates among their patients than non-profit
hospitals do, Canadian researchers report.
The increased rate of death in for-profit hospitals is only
slight--2%--but lead author Dr. P. J. Devereaux of McMaster
University in Ontario told Reuters Health that seemingly small
number translates into a large number of patients.
The US consists of a mix of for-profit and non-profit
hospitals. In Canada, however, 95% of hospitals are non-profit,
and the country is currently debating whether to transition to
more for-profit facilities.
If Canada switched to a for-profit hospital system, that
potential increase in the death rate of 2% would translate to
2,200 more annual deaths, Devereaux said--the number of
Canadians who die from motor vehicle accidents and colon cancer
"Clearly, those are things that no one would knowingly
introduce into society," he said. The findings are published in
the May 28th issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Devereaux and his team analyzed 15 studies that compared
26,000 private for-profit and private non-profit hospitals in
the US, which collectively treated 38 million patients between
1982 and 1995.
Privately owned hospitals are those that are not funded by
tax dollars channeled through the government. Both non-profit
and for-profit facilities can be supported by premiums from
insurance companies, but for-profit hospitals are ultimately
owned by shareholders and investors. Private non-profit
hospitals are owned by religious organizations, communities,
hospital boards or others.
While the study could not determine why there was a
difference in death rates depending on the hospital type,
Devereaux believes for-profit hospitals may cut some corners in
order to generate more revenue.
For example, Devereaux and his team found that for-profit
hospitals employ fewer highly skilled healthcare workers than
Devereaux stressed that the increased death rate of 2% in
for-profit hospitals is simply an average, and does not
necessarily mean that every for-profit facility has an exactly
2% higher risk of death among its patients.
However, these results indicate that those who attend
non-profit hospitals may have a slightly lower chance of dying
than others, Devereaux added.
"What people ultimately choose to do with that
(information) is their decision," he said.
As a researcher, Devereaux said he hopes policymakers in
Canada will simply use his findings to make an informed
decision on whether to introduce more for-profit hospitals in
Canada. However, as an individual, he said he hopes the country
does not make that transition.
SOURCE: Canadian Medical Association Journal 2002 May 28.
Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited