What Is A Semiprivate Room At a Nursing Home?

What does a semiprivate room consist of in a medical setting (hospital, nursing home, rehab hospital)? Read my interaction with this 96 year old patient.
Patient:  I'm only going to go to the nursing home for three days and no more.  And I'm only going to go if they have private rooms.
Happy:  I don't know if we can get you a private room but I'll check for you.
I leave room to talk with social worker
Happy:  Does the nursing home have a private room for her?
Social Worker:  No, they only have semiprivate rooms left.
Happy:  What the heck is a semi-private room?
Social Worker?  They will have a roommate.
Random RN:  Back in my day we used to put six people or more in a room.  So having a roommate is like having a semi private room.  You get a cloth drape that separates you.
I walk back to talk to patient
Happy:  You'll have a semiprivate room.  
Patient:  What's that mean.
Happy:  You'll only have one roommate instead of five.
Patient:  Oh Lord, I ain't goin'
Since when did having a private room become a right?   Medicare doesn't pay for  private room requests that aren't medically necessary.  But you'll find most hospitals in the US have moved to private rooms regardless.  And we are all paying for it. 

And why are we still calling rooms with roommates semiprivate?  Who are we kidding?   When I was a resident in training, our VA hospital's ICU was one giant pod with 16 patients all separated by a small drape.   You walked from patient to patient by peeking your head around the curtain.  Now everyone is enclosed in their own glass doored Mecca with flat screen televisions and 700 channels of cable TV.

I have also been told, back in the day, that hospital rooms were divided by smokers and nonsmokers.  Even the nurses and physicians all smoked and the most important part of the nurse's shift was to make sure the ash tray was clean before the next shift came on because no one wanted to empty another's ashtray.

In the 1980s, according to my source, the cardiologists used to enter the heart cath lab with their lit cigarettes and cigars in tow, place them on the ash  tray and perform their ten minute heart cath while their terbakki lay waiting for a drag.  I've also heard in the 1980s that some nurses would take quadriplegic patients with a tracheostomy outside to take puffs of cigarettes at the nursing home.  And one patient with Berger's disease, with no arms and no legs due to the amputations, had  his wheelchair jimmyrigged at the VA  with a cigarette holder so he could take puffs of smokes while at the hospital.

In the hospital, those on oxygen went to the nonsmoking room with 2-4 patients each.  Rooms were also divided by male and female for roommate purposes.   At the VA  we also used to group patients in large rooms based on whether they had VRE positive butt swabs or known MRSA  colonization.

Now everyone gets their own private everything.  And patients still find something to complain about.  My how times have changed.  I can't imagine what my life as a hospitalist will be like in ten  or twenty years.    Maybe I'll have my own private office and private bed and private television and private window over looking my own private lake at my own private hospital. And I'll think to myself, how the heck did I practice medicine in the old days!

Some of this post is for entertainment purposes only and likely contains humor only understood by those in a healthcare profession. Read at your own risk. 

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