For 3 months in 2000, some 8,000 doctors in Jerusalem, Israel had gone on strike to protest the proposed wages of the government. As a result, all admissions and surgeries in the hospitals in Jerusalem were canceled. However, emergency rooms, dialysis units, and oncology departments were kept open.
A funeral study conducted to find out the effects of the doctors’ strike revealed a shocking discovery: the number of deaths declined during the 3-month strike period. And this trend has also happened in other countries around the world.
Why is it that when doctors are on strike, fewer patients die? Here are some of the reasons that explain the lower mortality rates as an impact of physician strikes:
1. The cancellation of surgeries benefits patients
One of the major impacts of the strike had to do with surgeries—which lead to high risk of death in patients. Open heart surgery, in particular, comes with certain danger and complications involving the procedure itself and anesthesia. Especially in operations in which the heart is stopped to perform the procedure, the patient has a higher risk of death.
2. Hospitals are health hazards
During the doctors’ strike in Israel, patients were treated not in hospitals but in separate medical aid stations and private places such as in homes where patients were treated by family doctors. Hospitals are a perfect breeding ground for iatrogenic disease that takes the lives of as many as 700,000 patients each year. Infections are also prevalent in hospitals because of the presence of germs, with around 15,000 dying from hospital-acquired infections each year.
3. Doctors can be responsible for the deaths, too
A study found that when a patient consults a second physician, there was an 18% chance of disagreement with doing the surgery. Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine stated that 20% or two in 10 surgeries are unnecessary, leading to 12,000 unnecessary deaths every year.
The key takeaway of cases in which physicians go on strikes is that patients will have a greater chance of living if they do not rely heavily on doctors, hospitals, and surgeries for treating their disease.