Haute Hospital Digs

VCU Medical Center’s luxury Gumenick Suites redefine the stiff and sterile hospital room.

     Shrimp cocktail, thank you. And for the lady? Lamb chops, rare, please. All served on a linen-clothed dining table with crystal, silver and china fine enough for a five-star restaurant. Not to worry about a curbed appetite; there’s a kitchenette to reconstitute that stellar meal for a late night reprise, supplemented, of course, by a mini bar (alcohol-free). Just slip into the monogrammed terrycloth robe, pad off to your private bathroom (or your spouse’s, just to mix it up) for a shower, and dry off with monogrammed towels. There’s even a separate room with its own TV where your spouse can watch Wolf Blitzer while you catch up on “Real Housewives.”  

     However it sounds, this is not a resort in the Berkshires. It’s one of the Gumenick Suites at VCU Medical Center in Richmond. A hospital suite? So where’s the suction contraption? That oxygen thing? All the techno-clutter that makes a hospital room look more like a scrap metal warehouse than a place for rest and recuperation? Pleasantly tucked away in artfully designed cabinetry, that’s where.

     While luxury suites in hospitals are trending now, no other hospital in Virginia offers comparable accommodations. And elsewhere, of those that do, most want to keep their posh digs hush-hush. Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, for instance, blushed when the press revealed that Beyoncé had given birth in its VIP suite with four flat-screen televisions and a bed for dad.

     Not so with the Gumenick Suites, which pre-dated the trend, opening two in 1988, followed by four more in 1991. They’re plush and proud, with brochures and a webpage.

     Friends and family of patients staying in the Gumenick Suites aren’t restricted to hospital visiting hours. And private rooms and baths are available for overnight “guests,” as they are referred to by hospital staff. And about that staff: Patient to nurse ratio in the Gumenick Suites is three-to-one compared to the eight-to-one ratio of other floors.

     So what does it take to land the Plaza Suite of hospital accommodations? The permission of the hospital’s attending physician and out-of-pocket costs of $420 a day above insurance payments (based on 2012 costs).

     But those who have checked in say it’s worth every last cent.

     “Having the family be able to stay, sleep nearby or sit vigil more comfortably with a private living area to speak with doctors and staff as well as visitors, or even being at work on a laptop with a cup of coffee and a cookie or a snack brought in from home and kept in their private kitchenette, all leads to a more well-rested and engaged care partner and advocate for the patient,” says retired executive Paul Dresser, 70, of Williamsburg.

     Dresser should know. He and his daughter took turns overnighting in one of the Gumenick suites for nearly seven weeks in 2002 while his late wife underwent treatment for pancreatic cancer. And he has stayed there multiple times himself as a heart patient as well.

     Dresser believes the surroundings and services provide more than mere pampering. “A rested, well-informed and well-supported family makes better decisions,” he says. And the food isn’t bad, either.  VCUHealth.org/Gumenick

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