Being treated like a celebrity when giving birth

Celebrity is an interesting phenomenon.

On a hot summer night in 1990, my chief resident and I were on call at Harlem Hospital. We were informed that a “guest” was coming to interview us. Hot, sweaty and looking haggard rather than glamorous, we wanted to choke our director when Spike Lee walked through the door with film crew in tow. Lee was there to film the infamous movie, Mo’ Better Blues. We introduced him to our staff, he hung out with us all night and a patient allowed him to witness her delivery. Lee, dressed in paper scrubs, stared in awe as most people do when witness the miracle of birth. He graciously sent the patient a dozen roses the next day. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that one of the main character’s in the movie was named Clarke, which just happened to be the name of one of our favorites nurses on duty that night. Denzel Washington was coming the next night but I was scheduled to go on vacation and someone else got the pleasure of meeting him. But here’s where the hypocrisy begins. When it came time to film the actual delivery for the movie, our residency director (who hadn’t delivered a baby in over 20 years) pulled rank and hijacked the part. To his credit, Spike Lee paid for the patient’s delivery.

On January 7, 2012, Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, shut down its entire 4th floor, prohibited employees from using cell phones and security cameras were taped. “Ingrid Jackson,” aka Beyonce Knowles Carter was having a baby. All hands were on deck and the hospital functioned at its highest level of proficiency. Unfortunately, the same day that Blue Ivy Carter entered the world, 2 women died of maternal complications. Many more had abruptions, premature labor, shoulder dystocias and stillbirths. $1.3 million dollars bought quality care for Beyonce, something that should really be experienced by all.

While I’m ecstatic about the arrival of Blue Ivy Carter, especially since her father and I were once residents of the humble Marcy Projects; my prayer is that Lenox Hill Hospital will take their windfall profit of $1.3 million dollars and put it to good use. How about donating ultrasounds, maternal fetal consultations and (OMG), a couple of free deliveries for uninsured pregnant women? And I’m sure they won’t boot Beyonce out of the hospital one day after her C. Section.

The birth of Blue Ivy Carter, while joyful, is yet another glaring example of separate and unequal health care treatment. Congratulations Jay and B. As you bask in the glow of your daughter’s safe arrival, please take time to remember those who may not be as fortunate.

Linda Burke-Galloway is an obstetrician-gynecologist and author of The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy. She blogs at her self-titled site, Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway.

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  • ninguem

    “……When it came time to film the actual delivery for the movie, our residency director (who hadn’t
    delivered a baby in over 20 years) pulled rank and hijacked the part…..”

    The danger of VIP medicine. Patient would have been better served by a chief resident.

    • Emily Theroux

      Well, that would be ideal if a mother could choose a chief resident.  But in reality, the average patient has no say or knowledge over who  will actually perform the hands-on delivery of her baby.  There will be no note in her chart revealing that there was a deliberate handoff to a medical student.

  • Marie

    There was a story in Sunday’s New York Times about the boutique service being offered now at Columbia Presbyterian, where I was born, economy class, 57 years ago.  Patients who can afford it are provided with butlers, rack of lamb and ‘spa-like’ bathrobes in luxuriously appointed private rooms.

    In a comment I made in response to the article, I noted that I had been the director of admissions at a large hospital here in New Jersey where the ER frequently backed up due to high utilization.  We worked very hard to get patients beds as ethically, safely and quickly as possible.  I was always galled when administration ordered us to give precedence to some so-called VIP, or to a patient whose family was screaming the loudest, while some little old lady with dementia and no one to advocate for her languished on a gurney in the hall for another day.  I believe that it is inappropriate to offer different levels of accommodation in a healthcare setting.  I know hospitals are looking for creative ways to improve revenue, but pandering to wealth and celebrity is not it.  It is a slippery slope.  Is there a lower nurse/patient ratio?  Are these people getting better care?  The facility insists not, that all care is the same, but I don’t believe that for a second and neither do the people paying thousands of dollars for this luxury.

    But what makes me laugh is the perception that these people are something special.  Naked underneath the ‘spa-like’ robes, everyone is exactly the same.

  • Alicia Gallegos

    I would like to see some citations and attributions in this post. Where did the data come from on the maternal complications? With the hospital disputing the amount paid, it would be also be helpful to note where the $1.3 million figure originated.

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