Medical Tourism Has Come to the U.S.A.

January 26, 2012
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This Health Alert comes exclusively from an article by Nina Bernstein in The New York Times.

Some hospital rooms are like the Four Seasons:  

This Health Alert comes exclusively from an article by Nina Bernstein in The New York Times.

Some hospital rooms are like the Four Seasons:  

The bed linens were by Frette, Italian purveyors of high-thread-count sheets to popes and princes. The bathroom gleamed with polished marble. Huge windows displayed panoramic East River views. And in the hush of her $2,400 suite, a man in a black vest and tie proffered an elaborate menu and told her, “I’ll be your butler.”

It was Greenberg 14 South, the elite wing on the new penthouse floor of NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital. Pampering and décor to rival a grand hotel, if not a Downton Abbey, have long been the hallmark of such “amenities units,” often hidden behind closed doors at New York’s premier hospitals. But the phenomenon is escalating here and around the country, health care design specialists say, part of an international competition for wealthy patients willing to pay extra, even as the federal government cuts back…

 

If I were a rich man.

 It’s more common than you think:

Many American hospitals offer a V.I.P. amenities floor with a dedicated chef and lavish services, from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, which promises “the ultimate in pampering” in its $3,784 maternity suites. The rise of medical tourism to glittering hospitals in places like Singapore and Thailand has turned coddling and elegance into marketing necessities, designers say…

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But it’s all hush-hush:

NewYork-Presbyterian, which once opposed amenities units, would not answer questions about its shift, and declined a reporter’s request for a tour…

And definitely not for the masses:

In space-starved New York, many regular hospital rooms are still double-occupancy, though singles are now the national standard for infection control and quicker recovery…

The customer (oops) patient is always right:

“We pride ourselves on getting anything the patient wants. If they have a craving for lobster tails and we don’t have them on the menu, we’ll go out and get them,” [said] William Duffy, Mount Sinai Medical Center’s director of hospitality…

Avoiding the interns:

“I’m perfectly at home here — totally private, totally catered,” [Nancy Hemenway, a senior financial services executive] added. “I have a primary-care physician who also acts as ringmaster for all my other doctors. And I see no people in training — only the best of the best.” …

Serving the merely well-off:

Beth Israel Medical Center’s…green-carpeted lobby may be more Radisson than Ritz, but its 12 single rooms starting at $450 feature Bose stereos and flat-screen TVs, and chef-prepared kosher food is served on china…

And hospital administrators are apologetic:

Wayne Keathley, Mount Sinai’s president, minimized the unit’s role… “It is not nearly as large or elaborate as some others,” Mr. Keathley said. He called the money it brought in “a rounding error in my budget,” and said that patients came for the clinical care, not the amenities…

Gail Donovan, the chief operating officer of Continuum Partners, which includes Beth Israel and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital [said] “Our mission is really to be the safety net hospitals of our communities.” …

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