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December 11, 2006

Did the Health Care Facilities Commission Report Miss the Mark?

Professor Linda V. Green contends that the primary evidence used by the commission is an overly simplistic and potentially dangerous “ideal hospital occupancy rate”


If we follow the Commission on Health Care Facilities for the 21st Century’s recommendations to eliminate nearly 20 local hospitals and downsize dozens of others, “we may create a hospital crisis even worse than the last one,” Professor Linda V. Green of the Decision, Risk and Operations Division wrote in an op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times.

Based on the premise that the state has too many empty hospital beds, the report asserts that eliminating this “excess capacity” will result in better healthcare. Green contends that the primary evidence used by the commission to support this claim is an overly simplistic and potentially dangerous “ideal hospital occupancy rate” developed by the federal government in the 1970s.

While allowing that hospital closings are sometimes appropriate — and emphasizing that many of the suggestions in the report are valuable — Green proposes that “the increasing number of hospital patients admitted from emergency rooms, as well as new threats from emerging diseases and terrorism, require a more nuanced analysis of how many beds we really need.”

Green, the Armand G. Erpf Professor of the Modern Corporation, is a founder and codirector of the Columbia Alliance for Healthcare Management, a partnership of the Medical School, School of Public Health and the Business School dedicated to providing a multidisciplinary approach to education and research in healthcare.