Data seems to show when doctor's go on strike, patients stop dying

Dr Raj Persaud & Dr Peter Bruggen | Huffington Post | May 14, 2012

...when doctors [go on] strike, the scientific research evidence finds that patients stop dying. The most comprehensive review of the medical impact of doctors' strikes is published in the prestigious academic journal Social Science and Medicine.

A team lead by Solveig Cunningham and Salim Yusuf at Emory and Georgetown Universities in the USA. and McMaster University in Canada, analysed five physician strikes around the world, all between 1976 and 2003.

Doctors withdrew their labour, in the different strikes analysed, from between nine days and 17 weeks. Yet all the different studies report population mortality either stays the same, or even decreases, during medical strikes. Not a single study found death rates increased during the weeks of the strikes, compared to other times.

It's the fact that elective, or non-emergency surgery, tends to stop during a doctors' strike, which seems to be the key factor. It looks like a surprising amount of mortality occurs following this kind of procedure which disappears when elective surgery ceases due to doctors withdrawing their labour. Mortality declined steadily from week one (21 deaths/100,000 population) to weeks six (13) and seven (14), when mortality rates were lower than the averages of the previous five years.

Open Health News' Take: 

The 'Open Data' movement in healthcare could result in a wide range of new studies and useful findings that might result in changing current clinical practices and improving overall quality of care. Read more about 'Open Data' in Healthcare.