The furnishings have an air of elegance and grandeur: cherry armoires, Pembroke drop-leaf tables, Chippendale guest chairs, and Oriental rugs over hardwood floors. Gourmet meals will be served on fine china. Appointments include in-room refrigerators, TV's with premium cable, terry cloth robes in the closets and deluxe toiletries on the bathroom counter.
A guest suite at the newest Ritz-Carlton? No, it's a hospital room -- the new "high amenities" patient area at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.
Under construction on the third floor of the historic Marburg Building on Hopkins' east Baltimore campus is the Marburg Pavilion, a 16-bed medical unit designed to offer the look and feel of a four-star hotel.
If Hopkins had a presidential suite, this would be it.
When the remodeled floor opens in early February, patients will be treated to phones with fax and modem hook-ups, direct-dial long distance service, VCRs, personal safes and an ultra-quiet air conditioning system.
Patients also will see a higher level of attentiveness from nurses, housekeepers and others, who have been trained by the Walt Disney Co. to adhere to behavioral standards commensurate with the opulent surroundings. (Maintain eye contact, an employee manual says. Anticipate the needs of patients. Be knowledgeable about hospital information. Respond to any patient request.)
The extra service will extend to patients' visitors, who may stay in the upscale rooms as well. A guest services coordinator will procure theater tickets, limousines or laundry service for them.
It's all intended to provide a degree of service and ambience not previously available to patients at Hopkins -- and thus help bring in new business.
"We're not creating a new kind of medical care," said Toby Gordon, vice president of planning and marketing for the Johns Hopkins Health System and Hospital.
"But this unit will offer superior service. It's designed to attract people who are willing to pay extra for it and who would go elsewhere without it."
Hopkins already draws hundreds of patients a year from outside the region and even the country, she noted.
"This is just going to enhance our ability to do that," she said. "We will be reaching out nationally and internationally."
Although Hopkins isn't the first to woo the carriage trade, "no one has done it quite like this," said Margaret C. Walsh of Swann/Hall Associates in Baltimore, the interior designer for the project.
"It's very much like a room in the Ritz-Carlton," she said. "The china is exquisite. We have some beautiful tables coming from England for the living rooms."
Other U.S. hospitals that feature "high amenities" wings include the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio; Methodist Hospital in Houston; and the Washington Hospital Center in the District of Columbia. Locally, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore has five "VIP suites" in operation and will have 15 more by August.
Sinai's suites feature hardwood floors; TVs with VCRs; phones in the bathroom; a pantry area with refrigerator and microwave oven; gourmet food service; and a companion sitting room with a sleep sofa and large-screen TV.
A stay at the Marburg Pavilion isn't for the frugal -- and it's not covered by insurance.
The cost ranges from $125 to $150 per day for one room, up to $600 per day for a two-room suite.
That fee is over and above the basic rate for inpatient medical-surgical rooms at Hopkins, which cost $560 to $650 per day.
(By comparison, the most luxurious accommodations at Baltimore's Harbor Court Hotel cost $550 per night for a one-bedroom suite, $650 for a two-bedroom suite, and $2,000 per night for the Presidential Suite.)
Hopkins officials expect that many of the patients will be international visitors who pay in cash and understand that the Marburg Pavilion charges will be added to their bill.
Dr. Gordon said many people around the world now "shop" for health care.
"There is a subpopulation that is used to getting a certain level of service when they travel, and will pay extra for a hotel atmosphere," she said.
"We know we have some of the best health care, but we needed to address some of the hotel amenities. So we have basically re-engineered our delivery of care and service to patients."
Questions about elitism
There has been some discussion within the hospital about whether this approach is too elitist, but Hopkins administrators make no apologies about it.
"We decided our medical care is the same" throughout the hospital, Dr. Gordon said. "If people want to pay extra to get extra, that's OK."
And at a time when managed care policies are steering other patients away from institutions such as Hopkins, "it's a new source of patients for us."
Administrators also note that in his will, founder Johns Hopkins said he wanted the hospital to take in "patients who are able to make compensation for the room and attention they may require," then use money earned from them to care for others.