OBJECTIVE: To characterize the Brazilian philanthropic hospital network and its relation to the public and private sectors of the Sistema Unico de Saude (SUS) [Brazilian Unified Health System]. METHODS: This is a descriptive study that took into consideration the geographic distribution, number of beds, available biomedical equipment, health care complexity as well as the productive and consumer profiles of philanthropic hospitals. It is based on a sample of 175 hospitals, within a universe of 1,917, involving 102 distinct institutions. Among these, there were 66 Brazilian Unified Health System (SUS) inpatient care providers with less than 599 beds randomly included in this study. Twenty-six of the twenty-seven SUS inpatient care providers with at least 599 beds, as well as ten institutions which do not provide their services to SUS, were also included. This is a cross-sectional study and the data was obtained in 2001. Data collection was conducted by trained researchers, who applied a questionnaire in interviews with the hospital's managers. RESULTS: Within the random sample, 81.2% of the hospitals are located in cities outside of metropolitan areas, and 53.6% of these are the only hospitals within their municipalities. Basic clinical hospitals, without ICUs, predominate within the random sample (44.9%). Among the individual hospitals of the large philanthropic institutions and the special hospitals, the majority - 53% and 60% respectively - are level II general hospitals, a category of greater complexity. It was verified that complexity of care was associated to hospital size, being that hospitals with the greatest complexity are situated predominantly in the capitals. CONCLUSIONS: Given the importance of the philanthropic hospital sector within the SUS [Unified Health System] in Brazil, this paper identifies some ways of formulating appropriate health policies adjusted to the specificities of its different segments.
Philanthropic hospitals; Brazilian Health System; Hospital administration; Delivery of health care