I was driving north on Interstate 95 between Richmond, Virginia and Washington, D.C., a little past the halfway point is the town of Fredericksburg. Like most Towns in Virginia among its claims to fame are at least one civil war battle, a college, Mary Washington, and a vintage downtown now populated with restaurants, antique store and boutiques. Unlike most Virginia towns Fredericksburg has two nice hospitals.
A new one has been built south of town and is visible from I 95. And visible from I 95 they have erected an electronic message board which is the real subject of these thoughts. The day I was passing by the message proclaimed, “Emergency room waiting time 12 minutes.”
I have spent hours waiting in emergency rooms. My experience at our local hospital has generally been between one and four hours to be seen by someone and two to four hours to get out. So truly I rejoiced at this good news. I just wasn't sure what to do with it or why they were telling me this while I passed by on the highway.
Most likely I should just file this away with respect for what fine and efficient services this hospital offers and if I am ever in the area and need a hospital I should recall this.
Then I thought, why would I want to go to a hospital no one was going to? Maybe this hospital stays in business by luring in unsuspecting travelers? Maybe they are the Bates Hotel of Hospitals?
Maybe there are ambulances that wander the Interstates looking for just the best deal for their patients.
Maybe I should have an emergency to take advantage of the time savings offered by this hospital.
Since I don’t drive this stretch of highway more than a half dozen times a year I don’t know what else they might advertise. The Washington Post recently reported that hospital charges for the same surgeries in Virginia could vary by tens of thousands of dollars. So they might flash up ‘Hip Replacement $45,000,’ ‘Tonsillectomy $7,000’ etc. Or they could post their infection rate or mortality rate or on the happier side they could announce births. Maybe they could take their clues from the DMV and post “Now serving number 897.”
North of Fredericksburg I cross the Rappahannock River and return to the world of talk NPR and I am able to move on in my thought process, but before I do let me ask, “Who thought an electronic billboard for a hospital was a good idea?”