One of my patients is on the Fancy Rich People’s Ward. The first time I walked through on rounds, my jaw dropped. The place has a beautiful carpeted atrium with a 30 foot ceiling (and a 25 foot Christmas tree), a grand piano, and a wall of soothing water. The rest of the hospital is a buzz of energy at 7 AM; on the Fancy Rich People’s Ward, the atmosphere is hushed — there are actually signs up everywhere: “Shhhh! Sick patients!” with a cutesy smiley face holding a Mickey-Mouse gloved hand to its lips. The general ambience is that of a five-star hotel, or Dr. House’s Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.

And the quality of care is almost as bad. (The difference being that no one has exploded in an MRI of DOOOOOOOM. Yet.)

Maybe it’s just my patient’s nurse, but there is no way of knowing what is going on with the guy. He may or may not have had several episodes of diarrhea yesterday. He may or may not have been febrile. He may or may not have melena. NO ONE KNOWS! Even the patient doesn’t know, because he has a mental status equivalent to a small child, or George W. Bush. (Cheap shot? Sorry. He’s a sweet guy — my patient, that is — but his dementia doesn’t exactly boost his reliability.)

My resident, as we searched in vain for phlebotomy supplies: “They’ve got to have their newspaper and bathrobe, but god forbid they actually get diagnosed!

Me, I prefer the regular wards. What is a hospital without harsh fluorescent lighting, bad food, and noisy nurses’ stations, anyway?

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