The assumption that hospital decision-making is hierarchical in character underpins the policy formulation process in public as well as pluralist national health care systems. This article's analysis of decision-making in a Danish public hospital reinforces the contrary assertion: that effective authority in acute-care hospitals rests in an amorphous power relationship among the hospital's several occupational groups, in which physicians clearly have the upper hand. After a brief introduction to this Danish hospital, the article develops a detailed portrait of its informal power structure and of the different occupational groups' permanent power-maximizing strategies. Subsequently, the article assesses the impact of these strategies upon two recent efforts to contain the hospital's costs: a decision to close an expensive specialty clinic, and an attempt to shrink the hospital's size by transferring less sick elderly patients to a newly created rehabilitation facility. The study's findings suggest that efforts to impose hospital cost containment by exclusively political means are unlikely to succeed.

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