I couple of years back the local hospital near where I live decided that the building they were in was no longer suitable, and they were going to build a big fancy campus outside of town right near the highway. This caused some degree of dissent among the local folk, many of whom (myself included) believed that the existing building was just fine, and there was no reason to spend hundreds of millions of dollars (and I really am not kidding here, we were talking hundreds of millions of dollars).
So what if the existing building was pretty old. And in “not the best” part of town. So what if there was a mental institution right down the street. It was no big deal that the day release patients from the institute would often wander into the hospital to spend the day. I could live with that. And besides, the current location right in town was convenient for the vagrants and homeless people who liked to hang out in the emergency room lobby. Why take that away from them?
And besides, the new hospital campus outside of town was ridiculously extravagant. So big they were going to have to re-construct a section of I-95 that runs through the area to add a new exit and re-direct two others to accommodate this fancy new hospital that we didn’t really need. Bah.
Well despite the protests of the locals they built the fancy new hospital outside town anyway. I bitched about the money they spent. I bitched about the highway construction it all caused. Basically I bitched about the whole damn thing. Fuck progress.
Then earlier this summer I was diagnosed with Diverticulitis. Then earlier this week I suffered a major flare-up of this particular gift I had received that required a trip to the emergency room. You guessed it. Off to the fancy new hospital I went.
Well I must say the campus was beautiful. When you drive in there are gardens and fountains and just amazing landscaping everywhere you look. “What a waste of money!”, I said to myself. When we walked into the building it was bright and spacious and modern, but not too modern – with lots of natural wood and stone work. “I wonder how much they spent on this crap?”, I asked myself.
The emergency room was very easy to get to, and was the nicest facility of its kind I had ever been in. Every modern piece of equipment integrated seamlessly into the design of the place. Every room a private room with a vault-like sliding door that provided silence inside. The old hospital had been more of a dorm-room approach with curtains to provide a modicum of privacy, but no sound proofing. The staff was excellent. All very good at their jobs, and very cordial at the same time.
It turned out my emergency room visit morphed into a three-day hospital stay for me. Upstairs I went to settle in to a room on the third floor. The directions and signage were beautifully laid out and easy to follow. “That’s pretty cool.”, I told myself. The upper floors of the place were just as well designed and modern. Completely equipped with brand new computers and other equipment. An ultra-modern communication system that let any doctor or nurse to speak to any other doctor or nurse instantly, as well as receive automated patient status updates and other information. Every time I received medication the bar code on my wristband was scanned with a little hand-held reader. Then the medication was scanned and everything went into the computer automatically. The system verified the proper medicine was being given. No possibility for error. In short this facility represented the very latest in western medical technology.
Nobody likes a stay in the hospital, and I am no different. I tried to remain sweet and cordial to the staff because my care was in their hands, but the whole time I just wanted to start a fire in the trash can as a diversion and make a run for it.
One thing that made my stay bearable was the view out my window. From my third floor room I had a great view of the fountains and gardens we had driven passed on the way in. That combined with the endless forest that surrounds this new campus, and the fact that it was fall in New England, provided me some spectacular scenery.
The staff that took care of me were top-notch. Every single one was knowledgeable, professional and courteous. As I took all this in – this marvel of a modern medical facility, I began to have a change of heart. I began to be really glad that they had spent all those hundreds of millions of dollars on this new hospital. This place is a treasure to the local community. A beacon of modern healthcare in a state that has a vast rural population that does not often get the best care.
So now I look back at that old hospital building in town, with its dingy paint and its crowded location and I am so thankful that we have the new facility now. I hear the mental institution down the street from the old building is going to buy it and expand. Good riddance.
I know that healthcare costs in this country are out of control. But I also know that there is no other country in the world I would rather receive medical care than here. We need to do something about the astronomical costs for sure, but nowhere else in the world has the quality of care we do in the U.S.
And I for one am thankful every day for that.
So I will quit my bitching now. I have been converted. Give me a shiny new technological marvel of a medical facility, and I don’t care what it cost. I’ll take it.