- Odd News
Affluent new moms are getting a suite deal at Lenox Hill Hospital: Posh $1,700-a-night, full-service “Beyoncé” rooms staffed at the expense of less fortunate city mothers, veteran nurses charge.
The executive suites, including the one where the mega-star delivered baby Blue Ivy in January, receive nearly one-on-one nursing care. Two floors above, up to 18 newborns are sometimes tended by a single nurse.
The ratio, according to the nurses, is putting the babies’ lives at risk in the prestigious Manhattan hospital. By contract, nurses are only supposed to work with eight newborns at a time.
“It’s incredibly stressful,” one nurse who’s worked at Lenox Hill for decades told the Daily News. “You have too many babies. You can’t do all you need to do for them.”
A second nurse, at the hospital more than a dozen years, said her colleagues “have been saying they (hospital executives) don’t care about the 99%, they only care about the 1%.”
A News reporter touring the hospital Monday witnessed a dramatic change descending from the sixth-floor maternity ward to the exclusive fourth-floor “suites” that serve the well-heeled. The institutional linoleum floors and harsh white lights of the sixth floor gave way to lush gray carpet in the softly lit fourth-floor hallway and rooms.
A tour guide dubbed one of the pricey suites the “Beyoncé Room” — with blond wood floors, dark wood cabinets and cream-colored walls. The fourth-floor rooms feature better linens, plush terry cloth robes, a microwave, coffeemaker and two plasma screen TVs, according to one nurse.
The hospital is “looking to make this the Ritz,” said the nurse. “It’s not for everybody.”
The upstairs-downstairs split began three weeks ago when the institution first began renting out six rooms with names like the “Park Ave. studio” and the “premium deluxe” — clearly pandering to affluent patrons.
Promising an “outstanding, personalized experience,” the hospital offered private rooms two floors below the less costly, nonprivate rooms for the average mom.
Upstairs, semi-private rooms house two patients each and are usually covered by insurance. Small private rooms on that floor that aren’t covered by insurance go for $712 per night and one larger one goes for $1,300.
Downstairs, it’s a different world. The smallest “deluxe private” room goes for $850, the larger “premium deluxe” goes for $1,400, the biggest one — the Beyoncé Room — goes for $1,750. And that can be expanded into two suites for a cool $2,400 per night.
In the Beyonce Room, a typical post-partum stay for three nights would run the average upscale patient $5,250, plus medical care costs.
By comparison, three nights at the Waldorf Astoria a few blocks down Park Avenue would run $3,300 for a one-bedroom suite with custom decorative bed throws and twice-daily maid service.
The Lenox Hill suites boast “boutique hotel-like” features, including fine bedding, flat-screen televisions and concierge service. But most important, they promise “close to the bedside” nursing, which staffers say has forced the hospital to reassign nurses from the general maternity ward to the high-priced suites.
By contract, nurses aren’t supposed to care for more than eight babies at once, said Eileen Toback, chief of staff of the New York Professional Nurses Union. The union is in contentious contract talks with the hospital and Wednesday gave its leadership permission to call a strike if necessary.
In the last few weeks, Toback said reassignments to the executive suites have left nurses in charge of too many babies.
“These units are incredibly busy and there are not enough nurses and ancillary staff,” Toback said. “The stress is that a whole other floor puts pressure on the ratios. And something has to give.”
Last weekend, a woman in the executive suites delivered in the middle of the night, so the hospital had to pull one of the two nurses assigned to the general nursery, one nurse told The News. That left one nurse to care for 18 babies.
“Go ahead and make money — but don’t make money at the expense of everyone else,” said the nurse, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
The fabled institution has recently come on hard times. Fitch Ratings last month noted the hospital ran up a $19 million budget gap last year and is $7 million in the hole so far this year.
The hospital blames its revenue slowdown on a Manhattan-wide shift to less expensive outpatient care and cuts to Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements.
The hospital's parent company, North Shore L.I. Jewish Hospital, said it has invested $124 million in Lenox since it bought the facility in 2010 and promises another $39 million.
Lenox Hill is a New York icon, taking in survivors of the Hindenburg disaster in 1937 and patching up Winston Churchill when he was hit by a taxi in 1931.
With 632 beds, Lenox Hill delivered 3,848 babies last year. It mostly caters to middle- and upper-class patients, with only 34% of its revenue coming from Medicaid and Medicare, compared with 82% in city-run hospitals.
Hospital spokeswoman Barbara Osborn insisted staffing the executive suites has not diminished staffing of the general maternity ward.
“At no point was our maternity unit understaffed,” she said. "Due to the fluid nature of patient volume in maternity units, it is standard procedure for all hospitals to have the flexibility to move staff to best serve the needs of their patients."
She declined to discuss why the hospital dubs the suites the “Beyoncé Room,” “Park Ave. studio” and “Premium deluxe” room.
“Occasionally visitors ask about Beyoncé’s room,” she said. “There is no name for that suite.”