New Amsterdam has always, from its very first episode, been about showing us the way healthcare should work but rarely does. Despite grumblings to the contrary, the series’ fourth season, with its added bonus of Sharpwin working through what it means for them to be in a relationship, still has that goal front and center. It’s just, as we saw in “Harmony,” going about that storytelling a little bit differently sometimes.
Instead of having Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) trying to singlehandedly fix the world’s problems in 43 minutes of footage or less, we’re now seeing what happens when medical decisions are made from a standpoint of “it’s not personal. It’s just business.”
(Spoiler alert: We’re talking about people’s lives here, so it’s always personal in the end.)
Dr. Fuentes has already proven herself to be the anti-Max, and she certainly furthered that image in a big way in New Amsterdam 4×07 “Harmony.” As far as doing business goes, the only thing she has in common with Dr. Goodwin is the tendency for her plans to backfire.
She saw a problem—private ambulance companies pairing up with private hospitals, making it even more difficult for a public hospital to get any patients who could actually pay—and came up with what she thought was a solution. Offer “incentives” to FDNY to get patients from wherever, whenever, as quickly as possible. Somehow, that was supposed to bring in the “better” (rich) patients who’d otherwise go elsewhere and start fixing the hospital’s tendency to bleed money.
What it did, instead, was cause a non-emergent patient to die when paramedics rushed him in from the Upper East Side—far outside of the hospital’s jurisdiction—and collided with another vehicle.
Despite having blood on her hands, Dr. Fuentes didn’t even seem particularly bothered by the whole thing, which is of course yet another way she and Max are polar opposites. Dr. Goodwin beats himself up about the unforeseen consequences of his attempts to make things better for the people who need his help; the capitalist she-devil of medicine, on the other hand, sees it all as just business.
“…which leaves the uninsured, the homeless, and the poor for us.”
God forbid any hospital want to treat any of those patients, right? Gotta generate that revenue! That is the goal of medicine!
Sometimes, no matter what your motivations are (good in Max’s case, not so much in Veronica’s), the results might be more negative than positive. What matters is what you do with the outcome. Someone like Dr. Goodwin, who’s interested in truly making a difference, can always find a way to keep chipping away at problems with new solutions, always aimed at avoiding more hurt. He also tends to own his mistakes, even when knowing whatever he screwed up was in the interest of putting the “care” in healthcare.
The same can be said for the other half of New Amsterdam‘s resident (attending?) power couple. When Dr. Helen Sharpe (Freema Agyeman, queen) requested, in 2020, to move some funds toward treating long COVID, she didn’t specifically ask for another vital program to be cut. But it was. At the time, nobody was visiting the hospital for regular testing anyway, so money needed for Doppler screenings in sickle cell patients was yet another casualty of the pandemic era.
“A lot of tests never came back. Whole departments never came back.”
That meant at least one young girl suffered a stroke that could’ve been prevented. Rather than viewing her patient as collateral damage, though, Helen humbled herself before Max’s replacement, literally begging her to help her fix her mistake. For Helen, as is often the case with Max, the choice was simple. It wasn’t about optics, or about a financial bottom line, it was about saving lives. So, she did what she had to do.
“I take every part of my job incredibly seriously, but the part that I view as more than a job, as a higher duty, is taking care of children. And I have let one down. In the ICU right now, I have a patient who may never walk again, and she is 14. She had a stroke—a stroke that may have been avoided had I not ended the program. So, I have come here to ask you—to beg you—for the money, so that I can reinstate the program. So that this can never happen again.”
…unfortunately, that meant leaving someone like Dr. Fuentes in charge to decide how to find that money and fill the gap in care. And it wasn’t your typical, feel-good New Amsterdam ending. She took away the Aesthetics Clinic. No more wig or makeup consults for cancer patients. Because everything has a price. And if you make your choices based on the bottom line, rather than in really showing compassion, the obvious answer is to kill an “unnecessary” program in order to reinstate one with direct health benefits.
Forget about the “care” part. Forget, too, about the mental aspect of the health that comes, for some patients going through cancer treatment, when they’re able to reclaim a part of themselves in that ugly process by feeling like they look beautiful on the outside. Why worry about that when there’s a budget at stake, anyway?
That’s not even to say that, in all his misguided puppy dog glory, Max would never have made such a bad mistake. But he would’ve cleaned up his own mess pretty quickly, as soon as he realized the damage it caused. With New Amsterdam 4×07 “Harmony” ending with Dr. Sharpe, not Dr. Fuentes, seeing the utterly depressing cost of that particular budget choice, any change for the better on that front doesn’t seem likely.
And that’s kind of the point. Your “usual” leaders at New Amsterdam are here for both health and care. For the incoming Medical Director, choices are rarely made for “health” reasons. And “care” is completely out of the question unless it’s some sort of happy accident. Welcome to the U.S. healthcare system, where we’re all “drowning in medical debt.”
Leading the hospital in a way that only focused on money would be bad enough, but Dr. Fuentes decided to make things even worse by also throwing image into the mix. Pressuring Iggy to go back to seeing patients long before he was ready accomplished nothing. Or, nothing good, anyway. Unless you count causing him to have a panic attack, consider resigning, and then ultimately have a patient sitting in front of him while he was in the middle of yet another crisis of his own…as good things, that is.
Maybe the guy yelling about Hamilton tickets will be fine without some real input from someone capable of actually helping others, but there’s no way having a psychiatrist who can’t, you know, listen can end well. How many patients are going to wind up far sicker, possibly even dead, all because Fuentes wanted to make sure New Amsterdam’s prestige and reputation weren’t tarnished by a Department Chair who was more focused on training the next generation of experts?
We were really hoping we could root for a woman in charge. But alas. She’s still New Amsterdam’s villain, rather than its hero. And she’s such a clear vision of everything that’s wrong with medicine, when Max has always been everything that ought to be right.
Scattered thoughts on New Amsterdam 4×07
- Mum. I’m crying, like, forever. And not in that, “omg. I can’t believe this is that kind of show” way that I’m sure Tyler Labine was when he got the script with that scene.
- It could have gone so wrong with Max telling Luna that Helen can’t be Mommy because Mommy’s in heaven. But instead it was so right.
- And Freema, my heart.
- No, but really: Freema Agyeman is the star of New Amsterdam. And that’s that on that.
- “The only way to move forward is to face this situation head on.” Or, like, just…don’t.
- Hi, yes. There is nothing “boring” about the “traditional relationship stuff” Sharpwin skipped. Show me all of it. Make it hurt. All these domestic scenes and opportunities for them to figure their shit out? Iconic. Keep it going. And, uh, writers for other shows can start taking notes.
- …or we can all take notes from Doug and Carol on ER. Whichever.
- Someone check on Mr. Resentful after he sees that medical drama…
- Actually, someone check on him about that cute Leyren study scene while we’re at it.
- Reynolds and Baptiste may as well have just whipped them out and measured. So tired. That bickering was such a waste of two excellent actors…
- …but somehow, Sharpwin is the problem. Ok!
- Wee bit disappointing that Max had those flashbacks when he went to get the dispatch report, but nothing really came of it.
- “…a spiky, ugly little award that was ironic in its Freudian obliviousness.” So, perfect for Iggy?
- “He killed a dude with a runny nose, Lauren. And he almost killed his partner.” All because of Dr. Fuentes’ orders. Fire her.
- …he shouldn’t have listened to his Chief, who shouldn’t have listened to her, though. It’s called doing the right thing. Which nobody seems to care about doing if money is involved.
- Threatening to resign because you can’t handle romance on a medical drama. So true.
- “I can feel my throat closing up. Literally.” Things that happen when you realize you’re on that kind of show.
- “How did we think that we could just have breakfast and everything would be cool?” Because y’all are dumb?
- So much apologizing in one scene, and yet, nobody has apologized to any of us for Dr. Reynolds getting this awful storyline. Rude.
- “You know, the NYPD tried a quota system, and it led to the mass incarceration of Black and brown people and nearly tore the city apart.” Have I mentioned that I love Max Goodwin and whoever at New Amsterdam keeps putting these facts in his mouth? Because I do. Is he perfect? Hilariously not. But is he always trying to make things better? Yes.
New Amsterdam airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on NBC.