Hos­pi­tal: Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infin­i­ty, Plus Red Tape, Bad Behav­ior, Mon­ey, God and Diver­si­ty on Steroids

Julie Sala­m­on
  • Review
By – December 16, 2011
Not­ed jour­nal­ist Julie Sala­m­on was giv­en unprece­dent­ed access to observe and record the intri­cate work­ings of Mai­monides Med­ical Cen­ter in the Bor­ough Park sec­tion of Brook­lyn, NY

For a year, the author spent extend­ed peri­ods of time with admin­is­tra­tors, physi­cians, nurs­es, social work­ers, main­te­nance staff, board mem­bers, patients, and their fam­i­lies. She sat in on numer­ous meet­ings, attend­ed cel­e­bra­tions and ded­i­ca­tions of new facil­i­ties, and had free reign to explore the hos­pi­tal. She gained the trust of the pres­i­dent of the hos­pi­tal and senior admin­is­tra­tors, who seem to have revealed them­selves with con­sid­er­able candor. 

The result is a com­pelling and insight­ful socio-cul­tur­al exam­i­na­tion of what emerges as an impos­si­ble chal­lenge — name­ly, pro­vid­ing the high­est qual­i­ty med­ical care in a vast­ly over­crowd­ed mul­ti-eth­nic low-to-mod­er­ate income urban setting. 

Ms. Sala­m­on paints vivid por­traits of her char­ac­ters with, per­haps, unin­tend­ed results. The book will be read by all the key play­ers at Mai­monides, a ven­er­a­ble insti­tu­tion best known for serv­ing the large Hasidic and ultra-Ortho­dox Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion of Bor­ough Park. It will be read by those inter­est­ed in the cur­rent state of hos­pi­tal care in the Unit­ed States and how best to rem­e­dy our hos­pi­tals’ fail­ure to pro­vide ade­quate yet afford­able med­ical care. Read­ers will be unable to ignore Salamon’s sear­ing hon­esty about the state of Mai­monides and the expe­ri­ence of being a patient, vis­i­tor, or provider at this hospital. 

One comes to admire the many ded­i­cat­ed and skilled physi­cians and nurs­es at Mai­monides, well known for excep­tion­al car­diac care and now a first class can­cer cen­ter. Yet, few read­ers will be leav­ing the oth­er bor­oughs any­time soon to obtain treat­ment at Mai­monides. Sala­m­on, in this exem­plary account, takes no pris­on­ers and, despite a ros­ter of world class physi­cians, sur­geons, and supe­ri­or lead­er­ship, the chaos and unre­lent­ing stress of this over­whelmed mega hos­pi­tal can­not be ignored. This impor­tant and time­ly work leaves one with a search­ing ques­tion: Will a cul­ture of dig­ni­ty, civil­i­ty, clean­li­ness, and respect ever be pos­si­ble in our large urban med­ical cen­ters? Mai­monides, as Sala­m­on illu­mi­nates so well, aims each day to attain this ide­al, but it may remain anoth­er Mes­sian­ic yearn­ing best under­stood by the faith­ful who dwell in the shad­ows of this unique hos­pi­tal. Anno­tat­ed book list, author’s note, index. 
Steven A. Luel, Ph.D., is asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of edu­ca­tion and psy­chol­o­gy at Touro Col­lege, New York. He is a devel­op­men­tal psy­chol­o­gist and psy­cho­an­a­lyst in pri­vate prac­tice. He is co-edi­tor (with Paul Mar­cus) of Psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic Reflec­tions on the Holo­caust: Select­ed Essays.

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