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.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.