At a Manhattan teaching hospital, the life of Dr. Bock (George C. Scott), the Chief of Medicine, is in disarray: his wife has left him, his children don't talk to him, and his once-beloved teaching hospital is falling apart.
The hospital is dealing with the sudden deaths of two doctors and a nurse. These are attributed to coincidental or unavoidable failures to provide accurate treatment.
At the same time, administrators must deal with a protest against the hospital's annexation of an adjacent and decrepit apartment building. The annexation is to be used for a drug rehabilitation center; the building's current occupants demand that the hospital find them replacement housing before the building is demolished despite the building being condemned sometime before.
As Dr. Bock complains of impotence and has thoughts of suicide, he falls in love with Barbara Drummond (Diana Rigg), a patient's daughter who came with her father from Mexico for his treatment. This temporarily gives Dr. Bock something to live for after Barbara confronts him.
The deaths are discovered to have been initiated by Barbara's father (Barnard Hughes), as retribution for the "inhumanity" of modern medical treatment. Drummond's victims would have been saved if they had received prompt, appropriate treatment — but they did not. Dr. Bock and Barbara use a final, accidental death of a doctor at the hospital to cover Drummond's misdeeds. Barbara makes plans to fly her and her father back to Mexico. Dr. Bock at first intends to go with them, but at the last minute insists on staying behind to try to re-organize the hospital so that it will not descend into total chaos.George C. Scott as Dr. Herbert "Herb" Bock
Diana Rigg as Miss Barbara Drummond
Robert Walden as Dr. Brubaker
Barnard Hughes as Edmund Drummond (credited) and Dr. Mallory (uncredited)
Richard A. Dysart as Dr. Welbeck
Stephen Elliott as Dr. John Sundstrom
Andrew Duncan as William "Willie" Mead
Donald Harron as Milton Mead
Nancy Marchand as Mrs. Christie, Head of Nurses
Jordan Charney as Hitchcock, Hospital Administration
Roberts Blossom as Guernsey
Lenny Baker as Dr. Howard Schaefer
Richard Hamilton as Dr. Ronald Casey
Arthur Junaluska as Mr. Blacktree
Kate Harrington as Nurse Dunne
Katherine Helmond as Mrs. Marilyn Mead
David Hooks as Dr. Joe Einhorn
Frances Sternhagen as Mrs. Sally Cushing
Stockard Channing as E.R. Nurse (uncredited)
Dennis Dugan as E.R. Doctor (uncredited)
It was filmed at Metropolitan Hospital Center in New York.
The film earned $9 million in North American rentals.
When the film was released, film critic Roger Ebert lauded the film, writing, "The Hospital is a better movie than you may have been led to believe. It has been criticized for switching tone in midstream, but maybe it's only heading for deeper, swifter waters. [...] Chayevsky's [sic] bizarre and unexpected ending suggests that men - even madmen - can still use institutions for their own private purpose."
More recently, film critic Dennis Schwartz gave the film a mildly positive review, writing, "The gallows humor was the melodramatic farce's saving grace; the film uses its razor-sharp instruments to cut into the hides of the insensitive institutionalized health care providers like Michael Moore's Sicko does in 2007 to the fat-cat HMOs. My major gripe was that it could have been better, as Chayefsky delivered his part of the bargain and so did Scott; nevertheless the pic flattens out as the director increasingly loses his way in all the bitterness and invented horror stories and leaves us dangling over how to get out of such an irredeemable world (where modern man is perceived as forgotten in death)." The film has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 7.8/10.
The film won the Oscar, the Golden Globe, the WGA, and the BAFTA for Best Screenplay for Chayefsky's script. Despite having rejected the Oscar the previous year for his work in Patton, Scott was nominated for Best Actor, but the award went instead to Gene Hackman for The French Connection.
At the 22nd Berlin International Film Festival in 1972, the film won the Silver Bear Extraordinary Jury Prize.
In 1995, The Hospital was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".