January 10, 2012 5:24 pm
When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg began taking general questions at a news conference on Tuesday, the first topic was not his coming State of the City address, or teacher evaluation problems that are endangering federal education money, or even the New Hampshire primary.
It was Beyoncé Knowles and Jay-Z.
As the Saturday evening birth of Blue Ivy Carter, the first child of the recording-artist couple, continued to dominate local headlines, reporters wanted to know what the mayor thought of assertions that the two had paid Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan more than $1 million to convert a hospital wing into a private labor and delivery suite, while having their security guards block noncelebrity patients for hours.
Mr. Bloomberg, without mentioning any names, defended the right of private hospitals to rent out executive suites, citing the revenue such rentals generate.
“If they got paid a lot of money, and it let them provide services to other people who don’t have insurance or can’t afford it, I’m not so sure it’s a bad thing,” he said. “Full-paying patients are very valuable to hospitals in this day and age.”
The mayor added that it was “easy to go and criticize, but somebody’s got to pay.”
Mr. Bloomberg cautioned that he did not know what happened at Lenox Hill, quipping that “it’s been an awful long time since I’ve been in a maternity ward.”
“I don’t think I’m the person that can tell you what goes on in this day and age,” he continued.
But he suggested that he was troubled by reports that the hospital’s steps to protect the celebrity couple’s privacy, like covering security cameras with paper and erecting partitions, had interfered with other patients’ needs.
“I don’t think you should keep people from seeing their babies or whatever,” he said.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Frank Danza, the hospital’s executive director, defended Lenox Hill’s handling of the birth. He called reports that the couple had paid $1.3 million to rent a maternity floor “simply not true.” He said that Ms. Knowles and Jay-Z, whose given name is Shawn Carter, had been billed the standard rate for an executive suite — a rate that he did not specify.
Mr. Danza also said that “no security plan that we or the Carters’ security team put in place would have prevented or delayed families from gaining access” to the neonatal unit, and that no families had complained to the hospital to date about being denied access to the neonatal intensive care unit.
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