cover image The Hospital: Life, Death, and Dollars in a Small American Town

The Hospital: Life, Death, and Dollars in a Small American Town

Brian Alexander. St. Martin’s, $28.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-23735-4

Journalist Alexander (Glass House) delivers an anguished and incisive look at the struggles of an independent community hospital in northwestern Ohio between March 2018 and August 2020. Alternating boardroom politics and financial details with heartrending stories of uninsured and disadvantaged patients, Alexander documents CEO Phil Ennen’s desperate efforts to keep Community Hospitals and Wellness Centers of Bryan, Ohio, solvent without lowering standards of care. To offer more services and draw patients from neighboring counties, hospital administrators set out to recruit medical professionals from abroad who would be willing to deal with rural Ohio’s cold winters and lack of amenities; meanwhile, CHWC doctors gave patients money for lifesaving prescriptions so they didn't have to wait until payday. Alexander delves into the complicated history of U.S. healthcare and lucidly describes how the Trump administration’s anti-immigration and pro-corporation policies impacted both the hospital’s ability to attract staff and the economic difficulties faced by locals. The story of diabetic Keith Swihart, who undergoes “two amputations, three eye surgeries, and one colonoscopy,” brings home the steep cost of not providing universal health care. Alexander’s in-depth research also makes clear why CHWC and hospitals like it have struggled to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. This wrenching account brilliantly diagnoses the flaws in America’s healthcare system. (Mar.)