Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Killer Strikes

Health Care Jonathan Gruber (MIT) & Samuel Kleiner (Carnegie Mellon PhD Candidate) have posted their article, "Do Strikes Kill? Evidence from New York State," which has some results that may garner some publicity.  The abstract:

Concerns over the impacts of hospital strikes on patient welfare led to substantial delay in the ability of hospitals to unionize. Once allowed, hospitals unionized rapidly and now represent one of the largest union sectors of the U.S. economy. Were the original fears of harmful hospital strikes realized as a result? In this paper we analyze the effects of nurses’ strikes in hospitals on patient outcomes. We utilize a unique dataset collected on nurses’ strikes over the 1984 to 2004 period in New York State, and match these strikes to a restricted use hospital discharge database which provides information on treatment intensity, patient mortality and hospital readmission. Controlling for hospital specific heterogeneity, patient demographics and disease severity, the results show that nurses’ strikes increase in-hospital mortality by 19.4% and 30-day readmission by 6.5% for patients admitted during a strike, with little change in patient demographics, disease severity or treatment intensity. This study provides some of the first analytical evidence on the effects of health care strikes on patients, and suggests that hospitals functioning during nurses’ strikes are doing so at a lower quality of patient care.

It's no surprise that strikes have an effect on patient care--the strikes wouldn't be effective if they didn't.  But those sound pretty bad, at least to a non-expert like me.  The results obviously beg the question whether nurses power to strike or the procedures required before they do should be modified.  I also wonder what data is out there on patient care in unionized hospitals versus nonunionized ones.  That's a slightly different topic, but has some relation to the policy questions involved.



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» Hospital Strikes from Adjunct Law Prof Blog
Killer Strikes is an important April 6, 2010 posting by Prof. Jeff Hirsch over at one of our sister blogs, Workplace Prof Blog. Jeff reports on an important new labor relations article (not done by a law prof) which appears... [Read More]

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