Saturday, November 22, 2014 • 01:17
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A tour to remember


February 10, 2014
My friend Pam asked my wife and me, plus dozens of her closest friends, to spend an afternoon touring a hospital. On the surface, it seemed like an invitation to see a root canal. Only 12 people agreed to go. Truth is it was a lost opportunity for the others. It was exceedingly worthwhile, time well spent, and both informational and necessary.

The hospital is the new Palomar Medical Center in west Escondido, the beacon on the hill. What a beauty! I thought it was a 5-star hotel after my three hours there. There was valet parking to start, then a spacious lobby with comfortable seating. Lots of worker bees. Open ceilings. Surprisingly Quiet. Sound-proofed. Four PR people and the head of nursing did the tour and they knew their business. They knew they were selling quality too, and proud to impart the information.

It was obvious there were no Sham-Wow salesmen on this venture. Or even Flo from Progressive. Everything was wellplanned, organized, professional and tasteful. This was a medical center seeking your business, not selling rooms at an island resort. They knew you might rather be somewhere else today but wanted to check out care-givers for practical reasons. After my visit, I choose Palomar.

I'm going to touch on the highlights. There were no low lights. On a scale of 1 to 10, the rooms are easily an 11. No, I'm not referring to the executive suites or the staff quarters. I'm talking about your hospital room. Or maybe I should say your personal room. You want an outside room with a view? No problem. There are no inside rooms. All rooms are the same size and designed for your comfort. More important, these are for you and only you. There is no one in the next bed over because there is no next bed.

Nurses and practitioners don't get confused in these rooms because they are all right-hand ready, which is a term that no matter which room on which floor, everything is the same, eliminating guesswork for caregivers. You train one way, the right way. Sameness saves time.

Are you ready for this? There is a sofa bed in each room for your spouse or loved one to stay over. Sleep-overs are preferred when the patients want you at their side, say the Palomar people. The TV is large, your bed is easily manageable and the toilet facilities are . . . well, fit for a king, which is how you are treated at Palomar.

I'm a skeptic and hard sell, like most newsmen, even retired ones. I used Palomar last May unexpectedly, following a 911 call. The service was so good I thought I was vacationing in the Bahamas. I'm talking doctors, tests and the hospital in general. However, I was happy to visit again this time while standing up on my own two feet. Each room also has an information board where care-givers use magic markers to write your name and the names of your loved ones, your visitors, your food choices, just about everything except your shoe size. You don't want nurses forgetting your name. Hello Mr. So-and-So, what are you in here for. You won't hear that at Palomar.

Want a room away from the nurses' station? Easy-peasy. There are no nurses' stations, not in the traditional sense. There are oneperson pods or alcoves between each room, with shades, a monitor and a nurse keeping watch on you, mostly on the screen but also aware of perhaps unusual activity in your room. Let's face it, large nursing stations can be chit-chat areas. No one wants that. At Palomar they don't exist.

The hospital has 2,700 employees roughly 750,000 acres with room to expand upward and outward. Why so spacious? Because life expectancy will double or even triple in the next 10 to 15 years for 70 years old and up. More hospital care will be needed, not less. They've planned for the surge. We visited the room where they pound on your chest if your heart stops. That was interesting. Also, we visited the Emergency Department (also called ER), and it's not what you see on TV. It was not organized mayhem. This ER was full, 55 patients, but it was mostly serene because every patient had a separate room.

The waiting rooms on the floors we visited were sizable and comfortable; i.e. no hard benches. Moreover, there are boards that flash or print out alerts when there is news about your loved one. Friends and family spend time waiting and wondering. Palomar has eliminated some of the anxiety by being technologically savvy. Translation: You don't need to track down a nurse to seek info. As you walk off an elevator there are giant colorful paintings. You can enjoy the beauty but if you forgot the floor number where a friend or relative might be, you remember ''the one with the water lily.'' Again, that's cool.

They've thought of everything at Palomar. It starts with the architecture, the use of space, the high ceilings, the openness, the virtual elimination of extraneous noise. This, my friends, is not a cold and drab building. The outside upper floors show off the landscape, the mountains and you can walk around a flower or plant garden while being outside. I could talk about the lightning but I can't write about it. It too complicated to discuss in print. It's impressive, however, and you learn that on the tour.

I loved listening to the chief of nursing. Running this huge operation takes immense skill and planning. Nothing is left to chance is the way I saw it, and some very bright minds developed this hospital. It wasn't based on saving money or cutting corners. It was based on serving you. A visitor like me is convinced there could be no better care-giving hospital on this planet. If there is, I need to see it.

Here's more good news: If you want a guided tour, get a group together and call the center to get one. We dealt with Zachary Smith and Laura Gallerstein. You don't just take a walking tour, then leave. There is a Q and A, all questions welcomed. Don't worry about taking notes, there is literature going out the door with you. The truth is I brought a pen and paper to take notes. I didn't write down anything. Good news is easy to remember. It ended well, too. They served macadamia nut cookies at the Q and A. I had two cookies and asked more than two questions.

Bottom line: If you are a senior citizen, or you are the sons and daughters of elderly parents, do yourself a big favor and take a tour Also, check out the volunteer program, the foundation for giving. Palomar is not your typical parents' hospital. It is actually both for now and futuristic in concept.

P.S. To Kim Harris, my editor: Please bring macadamia nut cookies to our next lunch. Bring more than one, maybe a half dozen. If there is a charge, take it out of my paycheck.

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