Low Staffing in the Maternity Ward: Keep Calm and Call the Surgeon

Gabriel Alejandro Facchini Palma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This paper examines how workload affects the provision of care in a large but understudied segment of the healthcare sector – maternity wards. I use detailed patient-level administrative data on childbirth, and exploit quasi-random assignment of unscheduled patients to different staffing ratios. I find that the probability of C-section increases at a decreasing rate with workload. I show that this result is not attributable to patients’ differential sorting across staffing levels. Instead, I find evidence that C-sections are used to alleviate midwives’ workload -they are faster than vaginal births and performed by physicians. I also exploit patient's civil status to determine whether the effect varies with patient's bargaining power -single women are on average more likely to be alone in the delivery room. Consistent with induced demand, only single patients are more likely to receive a C-section when admitted at high workload levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-394
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of economic behavior and organization
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022


  • Bargaining power
  • Cesarean section
  • Midwives
  • Physician induced demand
  • Workload


Dive into the research topics of 'Low Staffing in the Maternity Ward: Keep Calm and Call the Surgeon'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this