A Doctor’s Love Letter to ‘The People’s Hospital’

by | Apr 3, 2023 | Health

Could a charity hospital founded by a crusading Dutch playwright, a group of Quakers, and a judge working undercover become a model for the U.S. health care system? In this episode of the podcast “An Arm and a Leg,” host Dan Weissmann speaks with Dr. Ricardo Nuila to find out.

Nuila’s new book, The People’s Hospital: Hope and Peril in American Medicine, uses the innovative model of the Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, where he practices, to argue for a publicly funded health system in the U.S. that’s available to everybody, with or without insurance. 

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Transcript: A Doctor’s Love Letter to ‘The People’s Hospital’

Note: “An Arm and a Leg” uses speech-recognition software to generate transcripts, which may contain errors. Please use the transcript as a tool but check the corresponding audio before quoting the podcast.

Dan: Ben Taub Hospital is a publicly funded safety net hospital in Houston, Texas. The majority of patients don’t have insurance of any kind. 

Dr. Ricardo Nuila has been working at Ben Taub since he was an intern, a medical student. He took me on a tour.

Ricardo Nuila: I started here and, you know, literally I just did not want to leave here cuz I just, just really enjoyed my job here

Dan: He’s just published a book called “The People’s Hospital” that’s not just a love letter to the place, it’s a pitch: 

Not only is this place way, way cheaper than what we’re used to, in many ways it’s better. And it’s a model, a real alternative to what-we’re-used-to.

So, I ask him to pick ONE patient’s story from the book to tell, he picks a patient he calls Stephen. A restaurant manager, a Republican. A guy who did not expect to end up here.

But he had a giant lump on the side of his throat, and his insurance didn’t cover much. He paid cash, upfront, to get seen in a local ER. 

Ricardo Nuila: finally there was a doctor who had seen a CAT scan and said, you have …

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