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A Real Perk Would Be Gowns That Fully Close in Back

May 01, 2000|ROSIE MESTEL

Visiting a hospital would be--not wonderful--definitely nicer if our experiences were like those glowingly described in the monthly newsletter "Premier Hospital Services Report."

The $495-a-year newsletter for hospital honchos is filled with tips on how hospitals can attract and profit from well-heeled patients. (One hospital, we learn, has referred to such folks as their "very appreciated patients," which warms our hearts about as much as the term "valued employees.")

The newsletter describes services that include (but aren't limited to) monogrammed robes, pantries stocked with coffee, drinks and snacks, special catering, leather bookmarks, afternoon tea, delivery of such amenities as canvases and paints "for the artistically inclined," interior design consultants (should patients want more personal touches in their rooms) and private social secretaries.

At Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, Conn., patients' family members get beepers so they can hang out in the gift shop without worrying about missing a visit from the doctor. ("We've turned patient relations from a cost center into a profit center," says the hospital's head of premier and patient relations.)

At St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, premier staff are trained to provide service with "a warm and gracious style" with help from visiting speakers from the hotel industry. In fact, empty hospital rooms are altered to become hotel rooms to accommodate the entourage that often travels with international patients. (One patient, we read, stayed two extra months in a hotel-style room, at a cost of $65,000, because the hospital stay had been so enjoyable.)

Florida Hospital's Celebration Health, in Celebration, Fla., according to the newsletter, resembles a resort hotel, with pastel stucco walls, tile roof, bell tower, lush gardens and a "huge video screen that displays . . . soothing nature scenes and inspirational quotes."

But elegance doesn't end at the lobby for premier patients, as we learn in yet another article. Dark wood, elegant drapes and throw pillows, soft, diffuse lighting and "more beautiful" bed frames that conceal ugly medical equipment: All contribute to the luxury of the premier hospital room. So does carpeting, with colors and designs that are tasteful yet soil-concealing, and impregnated with antimicrobial treatments to ward off mold and mildew.

"Every customer contact will be viewed as a marketing opportunity," comments one premier hospital services professional.

Marketing, indeed. One hospital executive explains that some foreign diplomats and other mucky-mucks who visit his Washington, D.C., hospital are "so motivated by the excellent treatment" they receive that they are inspired to make hefty donations. Donors who fork over $100,000 get suites named after them. Wow, that'll buy a lot of aspirin.

This Will Keep You From Sleeping Tight

At the other end of the overnight lodging experience spectrum, we learn from the British Medical Journal that bedbug infestations are on the rise in England. What's more, reports the article, the Brits may have gotten bedbugs from us!

That, at any rate, is the theory of microbiologists John Paul of the Brighton Public Health Laboratory Service and Janice Bates of Worthing Hospital. From 1995 through 1997, they write in a letter to the journal, no bedbug infestation reports came their way. Then, in 1998, the Brighton facility received one bedbug report. In 1999, it investigated four. This smacks of a trend to the authors, possibly caused by a rise in international travel.

All four of the 1999 cases were probably caused by bedbugs skulking in the luggage or furniture of people who'd journeyed from countries such as the U.S. and Australia and had recently occupied the rooms. (At this point I would like to point out that the fact that my parents live near Brighton, and I visit them annually, is nothing but coincidence.)

Bedbugs--which are about the size of a lentil, rather shy and can live up to six months without food--hide by day and bite people by night. Doctors aren't too familiar with the beasts, so may easily misdiagnose the itchy rashes the insects produce as scabies or something else. Sometimes, they add, a doctor might simply dismiss a patient's complaints as a parasite phobia.

I'm itching already.

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