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Is being in a hospital owned by a private equity firm less safe?

On Behalf of | Jun 25, 2024 | Medical Malpractice

People often don’t give much thought to who owns the hospital in which they’re being treated. Many are part of a network of facilities that may span the country. Some are affiliated with universities, while others have a religious affiliation.

With many hospitals struggling financially, private equity firms are increasingly purchasing them. While this can keep a much-needed facility up and running, what effect could private equity ownership have on the health and safety of its patients?

Common preventable adverse events and fatality rates

There are many ways to measure this, but a recent study by JAMA compared preventable adverse events in hospitals with new private equity ownership compared with other hospitals. Researchers found a 25% greater increase in these events in the three years following their purchase by a private equity firm than other hospitals. The greatest increases, comparatively, were for central line infections (almost 38%), falls (27%) and bedsores (25%). One researcher said, “Reductions in staffing after acquisition could explain all of these findings.”

While hospitals and care facilities, regardless of ownership, are facing an understaffing crisis, staffing cuts are common with new ownership as a way to cut costs and increase profits. The study found no significantly greater increase in fatality rates with new private equity ownership. That’s likely because fatality rates are more dependent on patients’ medical conditions than the level of care they receive.

Information is power

If you’re able to research hospitals before entering one for a procedure or other treatment (which most people aren’t able to do), determining whether one is owned by a private equity firm may not be easy. Information about these deals is often not publicly available.

It’s important to know what kind of adverse events are considered preventable, regardless of who owns a hospital. This can help you determine whether a facility and/or individual medical professionals can be held liable for medical malpractice. Having legal guidance can also help you determine how to proceed if you or a loved one has suffered harm.