Healthcare Quarterly

Healthcare Quarterly 4(4) June 2001 : 64-64.doi:10.12927/hcq..17439

Relevant Research: Study Looks at Quality of Patient Care after Hospital Closures


Whisper the words "hospital closure" and a whole town may rise up in protest. But a recent study could change that by showing that hospital closure doesn't necessarily translate into worse patient care. The study examines a 1996 hospital closure in Calgary and the effect the subsequent centralization of services had on 8,021 patients who underwent either coronary artery bypass grafting or percutaneous transluminal angioplasty, between July 1994 and March 1998.
Authors Brenda R. Hemmelgarn, William A. Ghali and Hude Quan found that there was no deterioration of patient care after the March 1996 closure of a Calgary hospital. In fact, for coronary bypass procedures, in-hospital deaths decreased slightly after centralization - even though doctors performed more procedures on sicker patients with shorter hospital stays. The authors suggest this could be due to the relationship between increased surgery procedures and improved surgery techniques.

Dr. Ghali said that the work is "merely a case study of how cardiac care was affected by a single hospital closure in a single city." Results, he said, can't be generalized. But they are supported by a 1993/1994 Winnipeg study that found mortality rates of patients admitted for heart attacks (and cancer surgery and hip fractures) didn't go up after hospitals there cut beds by 22.6%.

As in Calgary, Winnipeg hospitals maintained the number of procedures they had performed before bed closures by introducing shorter hospital stays. The Winnipeg researchers further established that these shorter stays don't compromise patient care because they couldn't find any correlation between shorter stays and readmission rates.

For more information on the study please contact: Dr. William A. Ghali, University of Alberta, Health Sciences Centre, 3330 Hospital Dr. NW. Calgary AB T2N 4N1,

Relevant Research is prepared by the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation. For more information please contact the Foundation at:


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