Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Julie Salamon's "Hospital"

Julie Salamon, author of seven books including The Devil's Candy and Rambam's Ladder, was a reporter and critic for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Here are her thoughts on the “Page 99 Test” and her most recent book, Hospital: Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity, Plus Red Tape, Bad Behavior, Money, God, and Diversity on Steroids:
Since the genesis of my book Hospital is rooted in serendipity, I was intrigued by the Wheel of Fortune aspect of the Page 99 test. I found Maimonides Medical Center through chance, and was lucky enough to be granted amazing access for an entire year to this big, urban hospital. What intrigued me was the complexity of a modern hospital, given an added charge by its Brooklyn location, a center of immigration. More than 60 languages are spoken at Maimonides.

The book’s subtitle is Man Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity, Plus Red Tape, Bad Behavior, Money, God, and Diversity on Steroids. Page 99 takes place in a chapter that looks at the complications involved in moving patients through the system, the “red tape” and “money” part of health care. It fairly represents crucial aspects of the book if not the entire landscape.

I’ve tried throughout the book to mingle personal stories with larger social and medical issues as these issues play out on the ground. On Page 99, Douglas Jablon, the exuberant head of patient relations, describes Sondra Olendorf, the head of nursing, with characteristic hyperbole: “I feel she dropped from heaven, and I don’t even think she got hurt.”

Olendorf has to deal with the realities of delayed lab work, nursing shortages, low morale. On Page 99 she designates a nurse to be a “bed manager,” someone whose entire job is to help get patients out of the hospital faster. “Being a bed manager took Romanelli (the bed manager) outside her zone in the hospital and sparked a kind of existential awakening. She had never thought about her unit in relation to the rest, apart from maybe housekeeping and pharmacy. Who has time to reflect on all the links in any chain…”
Learn more about the book and author at Julie Salamon's website.

--Marshal Zeringue