Thursday, November 05, 2015

God's Hotel

At the moment I am reading the book God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine, a combination of memoir and treatise that reads like a novel by physician Victoria Sweet. The title, God's Hotel, is the anglicized version of Hotel Dieu, a name which appears on hundreds if not thousands of hospitals around the world. It reminds us that our modern hospitals have their roots in the medieval

I am enjoying this book because?...because. Sweet is an excellent story-teller and not afraid to take us along on a personal pilgrimage which is purposeful but not predictable. She ends up at Laguna Honda hospital in San Francisco which is an almshouse, the last of its kind, a shabby yet beautiful place which is "last chance" for many of its patients, and a refuge where grace is often evident in surprising ways.

Sweet agrees to work at Laguna Honda for two months and stays for twenty years. Along the way she gets a PhD focussing on the medical model of medieval mystic Hildegard of Bingen. She explores the garden/gardener relationship of patient and physician in pre-scientific medicine, in contrast with our machine/mechanic model today. Dr. Sweet certainly values modern medicine but asks important questions about slowing down how we go about it, and how to take a more integrative and balanced and even spiritual approach. She also tells us about walking the Camino, the pilgrimage across Spain that our son Isaac and others we know have completed.

Sweet describes her approach as "slow medicine" and it bring to mind the CBC radio program White Coat, Black Art which looked at the Lean model for managing healthcare. It is based on The Toyota Way of efficiently building cars and is now being employed by hospitals in Ontario and Saskatchewan.

Car assembly line and healthcare worker

I'm sure Lean has its merits for efficiency, but I'm not a vehicle, and perhaps because I have higher mileage I wonder about this approach. I like what Sweet has to say about the merits of inefficiency and would certainly commend her book to you.

Have any of you read God's Hotel? Does my description, which may be highly inaccurate, intrigue you?

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