Hospital Hypocrisy


(taken from 2010 newsletter)

My mother recently had surgery at New York Cornell Hospital. Now, my mom is not one for medical procedures let alone major surgery so she took it upon herself to ensure that her hospital stay was as comfortable (and as posh) as possible. You’d never think my mom “posh” in any way however, deep down she likes her princess comforts. Welcome to the Greenberg Pavilion! Located on the 14th floor with views of the East River, it honestly couldn’t get much better than this as far as hospitals go:

  • Top-notch medical care (1 nurse for every 3-5 patients)
  • A sterile (in a good way) yet warm and inviting atmosphere
  • Large private rooms with floor to ceiling windows
  • Private and meticulously designed bathrooms
  • Flat screen televisions
  • Delicious and nutritious menus/meals (room service or private dining room)
  • Pantry stocked with mostly healthy foods for family and friends
  • Afternoon tea and healthy snacks
  • Business center
  • Concierge service

After research and a personal tour she was sold—sounds good, looks good!

Fast forward—my mother settled in her room, my father staying with her 24/7 and I am in and out during the day. Greenberg met our expectations for the first 18 hours. Then into the second day, several issues arose—untimely nurse response (my mother was in a lot of pain and having reactions to the multiple medications she was on), room cleanliness (garbage not emptied, sheets not changed, etc.), no assistance with personal hygiene and more. Now, you would think (and hope) that the high-ticket price for these rooms would also buy you a high level of care. Nope! Although there were some great caregivers that I do not want to discredit here, they were few and far between.

My father, not the kind of guy you want to mess with, had a few words with the “person in charge” and as a result she left him a small token of apology — TWO DUNKIN DONUTS GIFT CARDS! There aren’t many things that leave me speechless. Well, this was one of them! Ok, so maybe Dunkin Donuts has good coffee, but I wouldn’t say that they by any means connote or promote health. Aren’t hospitals supposed to help a patient get well? Yes, but they typically don’t! It’s about being sick and staying sick!

For my mother’s sake, I bit my tongue but that didn’t stop me from going over in my head (about 100 times) exactly what I would have said to the person in charge — the reason I am writing this essay!

To Whom it May Concern,

My mother was recently a patient at the Greenberg Pavilion.

I am not only appalled at the lack of real care provided to my mother during her stay on your prestigious 14th floor but also at the lack of responsibility you took in offering a respectable (and logical) apology to the problems presented. Dunkin Donuts gift cards, in my opinion, go against everything a hospital should represent—a road to wellness. And the mere fact that they were offered to her as an apology for your mistakes (that should never have occurred given what Greenberg touts itself on) is inexcusable!

But you see this is only a very small part of a much bigger problem—hospital foodservice (as in cafeteria food, gift shop food, vending machines, etc.). But, what baffles me is why a place such as the Greenberg Pavilion—that offers truly health supportive and “fine” dining to their patients and guests—would align themselves in any way with Dunkin Donuts, an American mainstay that has never represented and never will represent health in any way shape or form?

If Greenberg is to serve as a model for what hospitals can be someday—not just a place that people with the means can afford—then you need to lose the hypocrisy and terminate relationships with those companies that don’t carry the same values that you want to have (of course hoping that you do want to have them).

I noticed that New York Cornell enforces a rule—no smoking anywhere around the hospital (that means patients, guests and STAFF). So, how about a policy that eliminates all food that is not health supportive in hospitals? If you want junk, bring it with you—it’s your choice. Hospitals need to take a stand and truly be a road to wellness. Smoking has been identified as a habit that makes a person sick. News flash—the food we eat can cause illness as well!

So, Greenberg—if you have the means to take a stand on this case then do it! And stop the hypocrisy. Start by tossing those Dunkin Donuts gift cards and when you make a critical mistake in care, offer something that is more appropriate—a discount on a patient’s stay.


Stefanie Sacks

Now here I am all high and mighty complaining about the hypocrisy at hospitals. I am not typically one to complain without trying to find a solution. Sadly, a solution for this problem is not an easy task. Our paradigm needs to shift. We, the consumer, the patient, need to demand change for change to occur. It is an uphill battle (that I have been climbing) for some 25 years. I am not working at changing the hospitals directly but at educating people about making (and demanding) healthier food. I wish I had enough time in a day, a week, a month, a year to start to move the hospital hypocrisy mountain. Perhaps this letter (which I do plan to distribute beyond my newsletter) will make a small difference.

So, back to my mom—she is on her way to recovery and the sad but true experience at Greenberg is met with baffled laughter now. Clearly, hospitals are not truly about healthcare but “sickcare”. Demand change and it will eventually happen!