In the mid-1980s, I had the dubious pleasure of visiting the Soho Hospital for Women. It was full-on linoleum, with Florence Nightingale style iron bedsteads, surrounded by 1950s floral curtains: A palace of white ceramic tiles – not so much gleaming, as a breeding ground for every germ imaginable – or at least that’s how it seems today…
Now we have easy to clean wipe-down surfaces, as in the limed-wood chests of drawers you find in modern hospitals – where the bed/shower curtains are made from characterless cream plastic (probably not recycled surgical gloves, but they could be).
Of course, privately funded hospitals offer every modern convenience, as I discovered on a recent visit (courtesy of my abrupt encounter with a revolving door, whilst wearing sunglasses in Florida). These are much more like hotels…
And I was trying to work out what sort of hotels, when it struck me that, despite their genuinely caring and dedicated staff, plus state of the art medical technology, they seem to be somewhat lacking in inspiration on the interior decoration front.
Visit a Harley Street consultant and you are likely to find yourself in a wood panelled office with Chesterfield sofas, and possibly even a roaring log fire. One chap I went to see spent almost an hour telling me about his prized collection of medical curiosities. So why is it that even private hospitals are faithful to the Travelodge school of interior design?
In the UK we have hospital tourism, with people coming from all over the world to visit facilities such as Michael Jackson’s former home from home, The London Clinic. But just because we’re trussed up in anti-embolism stockings and self-heating surgical gowns, does it make us immune from the rest of our immediate environment?
It seems rather sad that the most revered piece of kit in a ‘luxurious’ contemporary hospital is a freeview television … the human equivalent of a wheel in a hamster cage.
In an attempt to make residents feel at home, the Hogewey dementia facility in the Netherlands “recreates the environment of the 1950s… Care givers stay behind the scenes, and are dressed like gardeners, hairdressers, and sales people.” There are even cocktail parties, and classical concerts held by a Mozart society.
Following its success, a $27 million dementia village is currently being constructed in Switzerland.
But going back to the reality of what we’re familiar with, at least if there’s nothing on the box, we can always resort to a good book…