It’s another busy morning in the Eoin O’Duffy Memorial Infirmary, aka Blueshirt General. New hospital master Leo Varadkar makes his rounds, accompanied by deputy master Frances Fitzgerald. They pass the operating theatre, from which a hospital press officer emerges:
Press officer: Could we have you in here a moment, Dr Varadkar?
Varadkar (stepping inside and noticing a large gathering of medics around a bed, where a patient named Joe Public is waiting to be stitched up). Gosh. What kind of op is this?
Press office: Just a photo op, actually. We need you to pose with all your new junior doctors. Smile for the cameras, everyone!
Fitzgerald (looking on, unimpressed): There’s a shocking lack of women in that line-up.
Varadkar (Between clenched grinning teeth): Really? I’m so gender neutral I hadn’t even noticed. But diversity is not all about men and women, you know. I had to balance other things. Religion. Sexual orientation. Different competencies. (He notices Mary Mitchell-O’Connor beside him). Or lack of competencies, as the case may be. Ouch!
Mitchell-O’Connor: Sorry for standing on your foot with my stiletto heel there, doctor. It was an accident – I was aiming for your back.
The hospital corridors again, later.
Fitzgerald: Dr O’Connor’s still very annoyed at being demoted, clearly.
Varadkar: She’ll be even more annoyed when she doesn’t get that super-junior bonus I promised to ease the blow. The board wouldn’t have it, unfortunately.
They drop into a specialist head injury ward, where senior consultant Charlie Flanagan is treating a patient.
Varadkar (to Flanagan, quietly): Is this the case you were telling me about?
Flanagan: Yes. I’m at something of a loss with her – I’d appreciate your opinion.
Varadkar (reading patient’s chart): So how are you today, Nóirín?
Nóirín O’Sullivan (for it is she): It’s Commissioner O’Sullivan to you. And if by “how are you today?” you mean am I resigning, the answer is no. I have complete confidence in my ability to lead An Garda Síochána.
Flanagan (leaning in to Varadkar and speaking very quietly): I’ve never seen anything quite like it. There seems to be some sort of progressive sclerosis of the sub-cranial region, accompanied by a strange bronzing of the skin.
Varadkar (nodding): Yes, it’s called “brass neck”. It’s just a lot more advanced than I’ve ever seen. (Reading the chart) There are some unbelievable figures here. The pulse rate, for example – 295 beats a minute?
Flanagan: She supplied that figure herself. Apparently the gardaí have their own PULSE computer system. She insists the figures are perfectly in order. So you’ve dealt with this neck thing before?
Varadkar: In a patient called Kenny. Amusing old guy from Mayo, but also shamelessly attached to his job, despite his position being clearly untenable. It’s the condition. (He points to the back of his own skull) It impedes the transmission of signals to the part of the brain that normally allows for feelings of shame or inadequacy.
Flanagan: But you cured him?
Varadkar: Eventually. (He puts the chart back). Let’s just keep probing her for now. If there’s no sign of embarrassment by next week we’ll consider something more drastic.
Fitzgerald (reading phone text): Sorry to interrupt, Dr Varadkar – but there’s a developing emergency in A & E.
They dash out the door, and sprint to the A & E department, where an ambulance has hit the glass doors.
Varadkar: What the hell happened here? An accident or terrorism?
Nurse: A protest, apparently. The driver threatened to bring the whole hospital crashing down. Luckily, the porters managed to restrain him before he could do serious damage.
Varadkar: What’s he protesting over?
Nurse: He shouted something about the hospital’s chief legal adviser being appointed a judge. Sounded very angry.
Varadkar: Yes, well we had to get rid of Máire somehow. (He approaches the driver, who has been placed in a straitjacket). What’s the meaning of this?
Shane Ross (for it is he): The judicial appointments system is rotten and I’m not putting up with it anymore!
Varadkar: Maybe it is, but what’s it got to do with you? You’re a driver – you’re only responsible for transport.
Ross: I can’t help it. It’s just an issue that really bothers me.
Varadkar (feeling his brow): Normally in this situation I’d suggest someone had been working too hard. But not in your case, obviously. (To the nurses) Give him a couple of aspirin and get him to lie down for a while. He’s running a temperature – let’s just hope he runs it better than the transport service.
(Everybody smiles indulgently at the Master’s witticism while the nurses lead Ross away).
Varadkar (to Flanagan, surveying the cracked glass doors): Sigh. There’s always something to fix around here.
Fitzgerald: Oh well, look on the bright side, chaps. At least your glass ceiling is still in place.