Do Strikes Kill? Evidence from New York State
49 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2010 Last revised: 29 Oct 2022
Date Written: March 2010
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.
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