Hospital suites across the Texas Medical Center offer patients a hotel-like experience

Suite Life

Hospital suites across the Texas Medical Center offer patients a hotel-like experience

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A great view, a gourmet meal and a comfortable place to lounge are amenities all of us expect at upscale hotels. But these luxuries are available at hospitals across the Texas Medical Center, as well.

For patients who want to make their stay a little more comfortable and are willing to spend over and above what insurance will cover, hospitals including Houston Methodist, Texas Children’s, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, and CHI St. Luke’s Health–Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center offer suites for one night or extended stays.

Courtney and Chris Shields heard about the Signature Suites at Memorial Hermann-TMC from their obstetrician. Courtney enjoyed the experience so much with her first child that when she was ready to deliver her second, she chose to stay in a suite again.

“It’s so nice, and has room for our family and friends to visit,” Shields said. “It feels cozy like a hotel room, but you are still in the hospital.”

The 11 suites at Memorial Hermann-TMC run an additional $250 a night. Benefits include a one-nurse-to-three-patient ratio, a tea station that serves continental breakfast, and afternoon hors d’oeuvres. One of the suites features a larger bed for athletes.

Many of the hospitals treat high-profile patients—celebrities, politicians and athletes—as well as patients from countries with strained governments. Most take special precautions that include elevated security systems.

Former president George H. W. Bush favors Fondren 12, the tony 12th floor of Methodist Hospital where he has stayed for bouts of pneumonia and flu, according to media reports. But as the Shields’ know, the suites aren’t just for the rich, famous or powerful. Patients from all walks of life who come from all over the world try to secure these special rooms, sometimes months in advance.

“Our large and medium suites are the most popular, and we are full most of the time,” said Alice Baker, guest relations manager for Houston Methodist, which has offered suites for nearly four decades.

Fondren 12, which has 27 rooms, was named for Sue Fondren Trammell. It opened in 1979, after the hospital began attracting presidents, kings and other dignitaries from around the world, many of whom came for care by famed cardiologist Michael DeBakey.

The out-of-pocket cost for a night in one of these suites ranges from $300 to $1,345.

Rooms With a View

Patients get luxury treatment in the four suites at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, which opened in 2012. They are first-come-first-served, and Gina Marrinucci, manager of retail and concierge services, says they turn over quickly. The suites include a separate space with room for visiting family and friends. A stay here costs $750 for up to three nights.

“We believe in family-centered care, where mom and baby are kept together to the extent possible,” Marrinucci said. “There is also space for dad to hang out or do business while mom has some quiet time.”

The spacious living area and view of the medical center from one of the nine suites at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center could almost be considered visual therapy for patients. These suites, known as 23 Terrace, cost an additional $950 a night. Suites have been available at the hospital for close to 30 years, but moved to the 23rd floor about 10 years ago.

It’s been widely reported that late Houston Mayor Bob Lanier liked to stay in these suites when he was treated for heart disease. The 6’4″ former cowboy slept in an extra-long bed.

The Royal Treatment

All of the hospitals top off the suite experience with special features, including afternoon tea service complete with cookies, cake, beverages and other goodies. Deluxe bedding, toiletry kits, newspapers and pretty much any food patients desire are also available.

Houston Methodist’s Michael McMurtry, a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, learned to cook a lot of different delicacies in order to cater to the international patients at Fondren 12. He has also prepared food for wedding receptions, christenings and holiday parties in the hospital.

The staff at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center recently threw a birthday party for a patient, said Aleza Espinosa, RN and manager of patient care at 23 Terrace. It’s an example of the lengths staff will go to make sure patients are happy.

At Texas Children’s, new parents receive special touches including a gourmet celebration meal, a fully stocked refrigerator, and a swaddle receiving blanket. Massages and bedside spa services are available for an additional fee.

Each hospital can also bring in outside vendors to pamper patients with haircuts, massages, manicures and pedicures.

The hospitals work to make sure all patients feel welcome. During a recent afternoon tea at Houston Methodist, a woman in a burqa could only communicate through a translation app on her phone to convey which food her family member wanted. The two men working the food cart took it in stride.

While some patients may be recuperating from elective procedures, close to 40 percent of the patients at Houston Methodist suites come from the emergency room, Baker said. The rest come from different departments, including neurology, oncology, cardiology, urology, and plastic surgery.

The nursing staffs across the different hospitals take pride in being able to cater to vastly different patients with varying needs.

“Patients upgraded to suites definitely feel like they are staying in a hotel, but in a hospital setting,” Espinosa said.

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