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Soc Sci Med. 2008 Dec;67(11):1784-8. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.09.044. Epub 2008 Oct 10.

Doctors' strikes and mortality: a review.

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  • 1Hubert Department of Global Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, United States. sargese@sph.emory.edu

Abstract

A paradoxical pattern has been suggested in the literature on doctors' strikes: when health workers go on strike, mortality stays level or decreases. We performed a review of the literature during the past forty years to assess this paradox. We used PubMed, EconLit and Jstor to locate all peer-reviewed English-language articles presenting data analysis on mortality associated with doctors' strikes. We identified 156 articles, seven of which met our search criteria. The articles analyzed five strikes around the world, all between 1976 and 2003. The strikes lasted between nine days and seventeen weeks. All reported that mortality either stayed the same or decreased during, and in some cases, after the strike. None found that mortality increased during the weeks of the strikes compared to other time periods. The paradoxical finding that physician strikes are associated with reduced mortality may be explained by several factors. Most importantly, elective surgeries are curtailed during strikes. Further, hospitals often re-assign scarce staff and emergency care was available during all of the strikes. Finally, none of the strikes may have lasted long enough to assess the effects of long-term reduced access to a physician. Nonetheless, the literature suggests that reductions in mortality may result from these strikes.

PMID:
18849101
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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