How many Dodger Dogs would it take to save a hospital?

John Taylor: May 29, 20070 Comments

For $40 to $60 a ticket, you get a bad seat at Dodger Stadium and all the hot dogs, nachos, peanuts and soda you can scarf down.  That's how the Dodgers are selling out their right field pavilion, factoring that the average fan will consume a little less than three 'dogs, a bag of peanuts and a plate of nachos (the Wall Street Journal says the team doesn't keep stats on  drinks because they're self-serve).

Quoting an official with the health-conscious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: "Now, you get the bad food at a discount, and to get the discount you've really got to gorge yourself."  With Dodgers chief operating officer Marty Greenspun retorting: "This isn't really about gluttony. This is about fan amenity and cost certainty."

Which makes me wonder what marketing genius might help bail out Grady Health System which, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, will be $78 million deep in red ink at year's end, not counting the $29 million it owes two affiliated medical colleges.  The system also needs $200 million in facility upgrades, the paper said. Things are so bad that when it offered early retirement packages, Grady figured maybe 150 of its 560 staff would sign up. Turns out 400 did.

By contrast, Massachusetts officials have OK'd the costliest hospital project in state history. The Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts General Hospital will spend nearly $500 million to build a new 10-story building, increasing its bed count from 902 to 1,052 and the number of operating rooms from 52 to 71.

The number of full-service hospitals in Massachusetts has declined from 113 in 1985 to 76 now.  I can't speak for that state, but here's one possible explanation for the financial duress experienced by California's full-service hospitals  -- the next time you drive Herndon Avenue in Fresno, tally up the number of specialty surgery and imaging centers you see.