About Those High-End Hospital Suites…

There’s been some discussion about luxury hospital suites, with a lot of anger over how the wealthy get preferential treatment (just read the comments on the NY Times story). But I think the allure will eventually wear off. Look at this room:

Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

Carpets, plush sofas, nooks and crannies due to a lot of furniture.

This is an infection control nightmare. How do you keep this clean? Not maid service clean (which, as Barbara Ehrenreich details in Nickled and Dimed, looks clean but isn’t very hygenic), but (ideal) hospital ward clean.

If a multi-drug resistant bacterial clone sweeps through one of these wards–and inevitably, it will–I think they’ll be a lot less desirable.

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4 Responses to About Those High-End Hospital Suites…

  1. george.w says:

    But… can’t they just do something? If we can put a man on the moon? Wait, I know! We’ll call the service and have them send in ten maids! With frilly aprons!

  2. dr2chase says:

    Just burn the furniture, and buy new. Problem solved.

  3. HCA says:

    They’re a fantastic idea. Just slip in a little clause in the room contract stating that if they die while in the room, they leave all of their money to the hospital.

  4. Art says:

    Look for minimum average housekeeping of about an hour a day. Essentially zero when patients are there, perhaps a quick vacuum and wipe, after a few days but the big press comes when they move out. This conflicts with hospital management that strives to keep such high footprint and overhead rooms occupied at all times to maintain profit margins. So typically as soon as the patient and their family clear the room a small army of cleaners descend to vacuum, wipe, mop, and ‘steam clean’ the room. Administrators want a one hour turn around time. Four hours is more realistic.

    The carpets and upholstery may, in what amounts to a heroic effort, be steam cleaned and this may, given time and conscientious operators, may have a positive effect. Hot water, and quaternary detergents can be hostile to infection agents if exposure times are long enough and the application is diligently applied. But even the most careful application just delays the inevitable and most hospitals don’t seem to even go that far. Using low-wage and minimally trained personnel under time pressure they clean about like a maid does at a cheap motel. And we all know what that hotel room looks like under a black-light.

    Short of massive applications of ethylene oxide or hard radiation carpeting and stuffed upholstery cannot be effectively disinfected once the critters get into the nap. Even disinfected the biological fuel, moisture, shed skin cells, various biological fluids, food and drink, are still there ready to act as a petri dish for the next family of critters.

    Usually the contents of those rooms gets replaced after a set number of patients, if it has stains or visible wear, or after certain events. If the patient has an accident on the couch it might get tossed. Depends on how good it looks after the upholstery guy beats on it with a steam cleaner. Most of the people making these decisions have little or no training in infection control but if the high lord counsel of infection control descends long enough to impress themselves on the housekeeping staff and informs them that the patient had a serious infection they will have the furniture removed and replaced.

    What happens to that furniture varies. Best case it burns. But if the furniture is not escorted to complete incineration it is likely to wander. That couch represents a significant windfall for the lady mopping floors or an underpaid secretary. When hospitals buy furniture for prestige suites they buy good stuff. If it is left unguarded it will tend to make its way onto a friends truck and on home . That it may be infected with bacteriological mayhem is not often a big consideration.

    In one case years ago furniture at a major hospital I worked at was stored with the intention it should be burned. Warning signs were displaced and people forgot. Months later the CFO’s very bossy wife decided her husband’s office needed a sitting area. Seeing what looked like nice furniture unused in a shipping area she had it dusted off and carried up. Working in a construction trade all over the hospital I remember the pieces being carried off the be burned and saw it again being set up on the administrative floor. In the area on an unrelated project I held my tongue. I think the guy doing the furniture moving tried to say something but, in the end, realizing that confronting the very class conscious and bossy lady was well above his pay grade, it was yes ma’am … very good ma’am.

    With luck the CFO has banged his secretary on the couch and given the sharp-tongued lady, secretary, and the CFO a disease. Hopefully nothing too serious. The executive staff at the hospital had very good health plans. Not as bad a “Gray’s Anatomy” hospitals are still hotbeds of sex and intrigue. You have to hope they clean or replace the furniture regularly.

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