Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Saudi King takes up the entire VIP wing at New York hospital
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah is causing his own diplomatic drama at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where the 86 year-old monarch has commandeered an entire wing as he recovers from back surgery on the VIP floor.
King Abdullah -- who repeatedly exhorted the US to "cut the head off the snake" by launching military strikes to destroy Iran's nuclear program, according to leaked diplomatic cables -- has forced other patients out by block-booking the hospital's top treatment and recovery rooms.
A family member of one patient told us, "The king has taken the entire luxury treatment wing and booked out all the rooms, even though they are empty and he doesn't need them, to protect his privacy.
"Patients are grumbling that they have been moved out to other areas of the hospital, and that despite there being a number of unused VIP treatment rooms, they can't be moved into them because they are all reserved for the king of Saudi Arabia."
The king underwent surgery for a blood clot and a slipped disc last week. Witnesses told us his security army is a visible presence both outside and inside the hospital.
One law enforcement source told us that Abdullah -- who was visited in Saudi Arabia by four Cornell doctors who advised him he had to have the surgery in New York -- is a generous donor to the hospital and visited a month prior to his surgery.
Abdullah arrived in town on Monday of last week with an enormous entourage. He chartered three flights to JFK, arrived with a massive security team and a film crew, and left the airport in a convoy of 40 vehicles, including 20 for luggage alone.
The Saudi embassy in Washington, DC, didn't return calls seeking comment. A spokeswoman for the hospital said, "I can confirm he is still a patient here," but declined to comment further.