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

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

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.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend