Fla. public hospital goes five-star route

Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital has undertaken a program to provide high-class patient hospitality services in an effort to attract affluent, international and privately insured patients. "We arrange everything--the doctor, the room, the transportation, accommodations for family. It's a concierge service from beginning to end," Diamela Corrales, manager of patient-hospitality services, told the Orlando Sentinel. But such service comes only to those who are willing--and able--to pay for it.

For Jackson, the world-class service is a matter of survival.  Currently the largest provider of indigent care in the Southeast U.S., the hospital was never known for hospitality. But last year Jackson had to absorb $85 million of the $493.5 million that is spent on charity care, a loss that just isn't sustainable year after year. So hospital administrators designed a program to attract wealthy and insured patients to Jackson by offering five-star service. The hospital hopes to realize $100 million in profit to cover losses from charity care.

Not surprisingly, many people, including hospital nurses and staffers, find fault with the program. Jackson is a tax-supported teaching hospital founded in 1971. Part of the hospital's mission has been to provide an equal standard of care to all patients regardless of their ability to pay for it. "Initially, the nurses were up in arms; they were hostile," said S. Shai Gold, executive vice president of Jackson Memorial Hospital International. "But they have come to understand that…while we are transforming our business model, we are not abandoning our mission."

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