Social Theory & Health

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 379–395 | Cite as

The private life of medicine: accounting for antibiotics in the ‘for-profit’ hospital setting

  • Alex BroomEmail author
  • Alexandra Gibson
  • Emma Kirby
  • Mark Davis
  • Jennifer Broom
Original Article


The looming global antibiotic crisis, and the need to curtail over-use, has been positioned variously as a medical problem, an urgent public health concern, and an issue of governance and political will. But few questions have been raised in terms of its economic drivers. Specifically, how infection management—and the problematic of antimicrobial resistance—may be deeply embedded in economic imperatives and relations of labour. Drawing on interviews with 31 health professionals (doctors, nurses, pharmacists) from a private hospital in Australia, we explore their accounts of the dynamics of care and the economic imperatives in (and beyond) infection management. We argue that market-driven forces create a distinct set of obligations that could undermine the local and global antibiotic optimisation agenda. Given the increasingly privatised landscape of healthcare in Australia and internationally, exploring the nexus of economics and practice will be vital in retaining antibiotics for the future.


Antibiotics Antimicrobial stewardship Australia Private hospital Qualitative research Sociology 



We would like to acknowledge the support from the Australasian Society of Infectious Diseases. This research was funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant LP140100020.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alex Broom
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alexandra Gibson
    • 2
  • Emma Kirby
    • 1
  • Mark Davis
    • 3
  • Jennifer Broom
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, School of Social SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Public Health and Community MedicineUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.School of Social SciencesMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.School of MedicineUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  5. 5.Sunshine Coast Health and Hospital Service, Sunshine Coast University HospitalBirtinyaAustralia

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