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Hospital Head vs. Golden Arches

The Cleveland Clinic is one of the world's finest hospitals,especially for the treatment of hearts diseased from bad lifestyle choices. At the same time, the Clinic campus supports a booming McDonald's outlet dispensing the chain's standard array of burgers, fries, chicken nuggets and sugary soft drinks, the kinds of foods often fingered by nutritionists and doctors as prime causes for all those diseased hearts. Some 12,000 customers belly up to the unit's counter each week.

The Clinic's new president, Dr. Toby Cosgrove, a trim 63-year-old former heart surgeon, is not amused by the irony. He wants to clean up the nutritional playing field at the medical center and already has one notch on his holster after booting a Pizza Hut unit off campus. Now he's trained his sights on Mc-Donald's.

Unfortunately, the unit is in the middle of a 20-year contract with the Clinic and has no intention of leaving early. Hence an impasse and a growing war of words.

Cosgrove and his supporters argue that having a McDonald's (or a Pizza Hut) on the premises undercuts the Clinic's health message even though the chains offer some healthful alternatives on their menus. They also note that other, healthier food options are already available on premise, including the Clinic's in-house cafeteria and branded Starbucks, Au Bon Pain and Subway stations.

(The fact that the McDonald'ssits one floor directly beneath the Clinic's heart center, so that the smell of grilling burgers and frying potatoes often wafts up to where patients are awaiting angioplasties and the like, adds a tragicomic touch to the situation.)

McDonald's and its franchise owner counter that their station offers customers—especially those on tight budgets—an economicalalternative to the pricier fare at the cafeteria and the other stations. They also note that the Clinic cafeteria is not exactly brimming with healthful alternatives either (though Cosgrove has promised to change that), though it does include a salad bar and its grill, deli and entrèe stations usually have lighter options available.

Stay tuned.

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