TAKING CARE OF OUR OWN: A Year in the Life of a Small Hospital by Susan Garrett

TAKING CARE OF OUR OWN: A Year in the Life of a Small Hospital

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A hospital administrator with a novelist's gifts creates a keen and witty portrait of a small Maine hospital struggling to find its niche in a changing world. Garrett draws on her experience as manager of an independent, not-for-profit community hospital in York, Me., to create this perceptive picture of a medical center facing an uncertain future. A crusty board of trustees with a sense of history and an assortment of talented, eccentric doctors jealously guarding their turf complicate decision-making as Garrett's administrator/narrator (whom she distinguishes from herself) ponders the proper role of the hospital and looks for ways to balance the demands on it. Garrett's characters are composites of people she has known, but they emerge here as vivid and unforgettable individuals: wise old Tony Phalen, the hospital's former administrator and the narrator's mentor; Jack Mathias, the board of trustees' treasurer and a man with a deep loathing for government interference in matters medical; Dr. Seller, an absurdly arrogant general practitioner; Dr. Hart, a suicidal anesthesiologist; Dr. James, a short-tempered vascular surgeon; and Dr. Talley, a brilliant diagnostician hooked on uppers and downers. Amid daily crises involving patient care, nurse shortages, doctors' temper tantrums, and natural and man-made disasters, the narrator grapples with long-term planning issues, such as what services the hospital should offer: low-tech ones that would benefit the community or high-tech, high-revenue ones that would keep doctors happy and the hospital operating in the black? The story builds to a grand climax with a spring snowstorm that turns the hospital, with its emergency generator, into the town evacuation center. Nothing is really resolved, but the complexities of community health care are made clear. Sheds more light on our health care problems than many a weightier tome and is a joy to read.

Pub Date: July 11th, 1994
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Dutton