I have in the past written about how (now that I have been in Brasil for 10 years and even though the city of Rio, the city proper not metro area, has a population of upward of 7 million, making it just over 3 times the size of Houston proper) everything in Houston just looks and feels BIGGER. In Rio the first half of this year, I have had several up close and personal visits to 3 or 4 different hospitals in the city; seeing for myself a few of Rio’s hospitals and making the inevitable comparison with the Houston medical system. Now before anyone goes crazy saying, ‘but Rio, Brasil is not the USA’ I know – I really do know - but my point still holds true, that Rio is a large enough city with enough people to warrant large rambling hospitals and it is in Houston where you find them and Rio is were you find small, clean, well staffed but terribly overcrowded hospitals. While getting the population numbers above from Wikipedia, I also noted that the area of Rio proper to contain the 7 million is over 700 sq. miles and Houston with its 2.1 million is under 450 sq. or less than two times the area with 3 times the population / population stacked on population just like in their hospitals.
The picture above is a small confortable private hospital just below the Christ and surrounded by slums. It had about 50 parking slots and as you can see is only 3 stories tall.
Now about just one of Houston’s hospitals: Back in the mid 70s when the X and I first arrived in Houston, we lived just a few blocks from the Memorial City area which was at the time a small shopping center and an even smaller hospital separated by a two lane street (Gesner). Now Memorial Hospital is owned and operated by the Memorial Herman Hospital Care System with 12 hospitals in the Houston area. The memorial city hospital is connected to the shopping center by a skywalk, has its own high end hotel, four 5 or 6 story doctor office plazas, five story parking lots for each of theses buildings and they are all connected, one to the other, by covered walkways. This last week I was in the complex for my annual eye exam and I decided to park at the mall and walk through the complex to my appointment on the other side. There were maps, I saw 4 but there were likely more, that showed where you were standing and you could clearly see how to get where you were going. I still had to ask directions once, with steady walking and some exploring to take photos it took me about 40 minutes one end to the other. Once I found the office were I needed to go, I back tracked and had lunch in a very nice cafeteria. Fresh salad bar and a bottled water for $6.00. (In the Rio hospital posted above there was no place to eat inside the hospital)
My expectation was of large areas, well appointed seating and good lighting. I found all of this. There were also high ceilings, handrails in all walkways and security guards at most junctions. And the feeling of BIG. What I didn’t find was signs of patients. Long empty hallways, clean and shiny and wide, but no patients. Nothing like big carts of cleaning supplies, or food trays or noise and confusion. Quiet, clean and restful and perhaps too sterile . A great place to be sick.