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Friendly Hospital, Not-so-friendly Skies

April 15, 2008
by kate
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This morning, I returned from my first hospital tour. The experience was even better than I had hoped, and I’m very grateful that I had the opportunity to witness healthcare IT in action. The people at Spectrum Health in Michigan were very generous with their time, and they had a pride in their facilities that very evident as they demonstrated everything from the TUG robot to patient care consoles.

But it wasn’t just the technologies that I found interesting. It was fascinating to see how the impending expansions of two major healthcare facilities (Spectrum Health and Van Andel Research Institute) along with the addition of Michigan State University’s medical school, are transforming the city of Grand Rapids from one best known as the birthplace of the late President Gerald Ford into a medical Mecca. There’s an entire stretch of Michigan Street that is now commonly referred to by locals as “the medical mile” because of all the facilities being built or expanded in a single stretch of downtown. The infusion is giving the city a great buzz, and it was exciting to be part of it, even if just for a day. Grand Rapid's Medical Mile

Unfortunately, all wasn’t well with my travels, as once again I spent more time on an airport runway than in the air, facing numerous and significant delays both to and from Grand Rapids. I didn’t think it would be quite so easy to top the four — yes, four — delays that plagued my departing flight, until I attempted to return back east. Everything seemed fine until the pilot informed us that the aircraft’s brakes were “very hot” and that the maintenance crew was on its way over to inspect them. Uh-oh. About an hour and a half later, the plane was deemed unsafe and the flight was cancelled. The exhausted passengers were booked on early morning flights and shuttled to nearby motels with $13 food vouchers in hand. And in case anyone wanted to access luggage that had been stowed, there was at least an hour wait for that, and it was already 11 p.m. I decided to forego the Comfort Inn’s menu, opting instead for a few solid hours of rest before it was time to shuttle back to the airport. This morning’s flight only had a short delay, and when it touched ground in Newark at around 9 a.m. this morning, I felt like a castaway who just discovered that this rescue boat was no mirage.

Needless to say, it was quite an adventure. Pretty soon, I’m going to have to change the name of my blog to something like “Airport Blues” or “Where in the U.S. is Kate stranded?” But seriously — and please pardon the Seinfeld-esque manner of this ponder — what’s the deal with air travel these days? I’ve heard so many tales lately of cancellations, overbookings, and other crises like objects hitting planes and “hot brakes”, that I’m really starting to think twice about booking plane trips. However, as frustrating and exhausting as travel can be, we can’t let it keep us from the unique opportunity afforded by these tours to learn firsthand both about a facility and its community. The Medical Mile is Revitalizing Downtown

By the time Spectrum Health and Van Andel’s renovations are complete (approximately four years from now), Grand Rapids won’t just have undergone a facelift; it will have established a new identity. And I’m sure the Western, Michigan-based city isn’t the only one going through this. What other cities and towns are going “under the knife” and what potential does this mutually-beneficial relationship hold for depressed areas?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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