Study finds hospital costs for injured sawmill workers

In brief

  • Researchers identified a portion of health-care costs among injured sawmill workers that were not reimbursed by the provincial workers' compensation agency.
  • The results emphasize the importance of reducing hospital costs for work-related injuries by targeting prevention efforts to the more costly injuries.

Why was this study done?

Hospital care contributes significantly to the total costs of work-related injuries in Canada. Provincial workers' compensation agencies reimburse publicly-funded hospitals for the care provided in the treatment of work-related injuries and disease. This study looked at the costs of hospital care provided in the treatment of work-related injuries in the British Columbia sawmill industry. It also estimated the proportion of hospital costs that were reimbursed by the provincial workers' compensation agency.

How was the study done?

Researchers looked at hospital discharge records for 5,876 sawmill workers in British Columbia from 1989 to 1998. These records show where the injury occurred and the organization responsible for payment. This helped researchers to identify work-related injuries. Using the standard ward rate from the hospitals, researchers calculated total hospital costs for all work-related injuries. All costs were expressed in 1995 Canadian dollars.

What did the researchers find?

Hospital costs for 173 work-related injuries totaled $434,990, with an average cost of $847. About 12 per cent of these costs were not reimbursed by the provincial workers' compensation agency. Of these injuries, 136 (79 per cent) were matched to a workers' compensation claim and 37 (21 per cent) could not be matched. Costs varied according to the nature and cause of injury. Burns had the longest hospital stays and were the most costly injury. Dislocations, sprains and strains had the shortest stays and were the least costly injuries.

What are some strengths and weaknesses of the study?

This study made excellent use of hospital billing charts to determine the daily costs of inpatient care. One limitation is that the study depended on the accuracy of diagnostic codes and dates used by the hospital and compensation databases.

Publication Information

Title: 

Author(s): 

Alamgir H, Tompa E, Koehoorn M, Ostry A, Demers PA

Journal: 

Injury: International Journal of the Care of the Injured, 2007: vol. 38, no. 6, pp. 631-639