Where does one go without health insurance, when turned away by hospitals, clinics, and doctors? In The People's Hospital, we follow the lives of five uninsured Houstonians as their struggle for survival leads them to a hospital where insurance comes second to genuine care. Each patient eventually lands at Ben Taub, the county hospital where Ricardo Nuila has worked for over a decade.
[Nuila] humanizes his points in meticulous and compassionate detail through focusing primarily on the stories of five Ben Taub patients. So many medical narratives center on the ugly endgame: very sick people at their worst ... Nuila... instead takes the time to work backward as he describes the plights of people he has cared for.
Ricardo Nuila’s attempt to untangle the labyrinthine system of American hospitals and, more crucially, American medical insurance ... The book pingpongs, sometimes dizzyingly, between Nuila’s personal history with medicine, the history of medicine more generally ... Though there are times when it seems he is retreading ground he’s already covered, much of that repetition appears to be by design, echoing the endless cycles patients often must work through to find treatment ... The People’s Hospital never shies away from the deep inadequacies of the American health-care system. Nuila admits that though there are some solutions that seem both feasible and necessary, there are other, more complex problems that have no simple answers. Still, it doesn’t seem accidental that the book ends on a distinctly hopeful note ... A hope that even if our health-care system will never become the shining beacon of equitable care all patients deserve, it can, at least, get better.
The author’s lyricism and empathy defy both typical medical journalism and the reduction of patient care to the management of charts and bills. Nuila’s complete, deeply personal dedication to his content and his exceptional command of prose allow him to translate the mercy, authority, and sense of urgency that patients want at their bedsides and citizens want in policy debates.