Posted on May 28, 2002

Deaths Rates are Higher at Investor-Owned Hospitals, According to Analysis of 35 million U.S. Hospitalizations


P.J. Devereaux, MD (905) 525-9140
Steffie Woolhandler, MD (617) 497-1268
Holger Schunemann, MD, PhD (716) 898-5792

Deaths Rates are Higher at Investor-Owned Hospitals, According to Analysis of 35 million U.S. Hospitalizations

Investor-owned hospitals have 2% higher death rates than non-profit hospitals, according to a major study appearing in today�s Canadian Medical Association Journal. The journal article reports the first comprehensive analysis based on all studies that have compared mortality at investor-owned and non-profit hospitals. The study was carried out by researchers from McMaster University who are considered the world�s leading experts on research methodology.

The 17 researchers reviewed 8665 medical articles on hospital care, eventually honing in on the 15 highest quality and most relevant studies � which included 35 million patients - examining the performance of investor-owned facilities. To prevent bias, they blacked out study results before deciding which studies to include. They then contacted the original authors of all the research papers to verify the findings and ascertain additional details. Finally, they combined the 15 studies using advanced statistical techniques to compare death rates at investor-owned and non-profit hospitals,

�Our findings are consistent and unequivocal: death rates are higher in investor-owned hospitals,� commented lead author Dr. P.J. Devereaux . �We think that investor-owned hospitals provide poorer care because stockholders expect a 10-15% profit. This money must be extracted from patient care. This means less skilled personnel, inlcuding nurses and pharmacists. Care suffers, and death rates increase. For Canada, our study is a warning not to allow investor-owned hospitals into our country; switching from our current non-profit hospitals to an investor-owned hospital system would result in over 2,000 additional deaths each year, as many as the number of Canadians who die each from colon cancer.�

According to Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard and a Founder of Physicians for a National Health Program: "Investor-owned hospitals care for about one eighth of all hospital patients in the U.S. The study suggests that converting all U.S. hospitals to investor-ownership would result in 14,312 additional deaths each year. Conversely, converting current investor-owned hospitals to non-profit status would prevent 2047 deaths annually."

Physicians for a National Health Program is an organization of 10,000 US physicians advocating non-profit national health insurance.