It’s another busy morning in the Eoin O’Duffy Memorial Infirmary, aka Blueshirt General. Hospital Master Leo Varadkar makes a round of the wards, accompanied by his senior nurse, Regina Doherty.
Dr Varadkar (stopping by a bed and picking up the patient’s chart): Who’s this, nurse?
Nurse Doherty: We think he’s a garda – he came in wearing uniform. But he seems very confused. There may be some head trauma involved.
Varadkar (raising his right hand towards the patient, with three fingers extended): How many fingers am I holding up?
Patient: Five hundred thousand.
Varadkar (raising his left hand this time, with four fingers): And how many now?
Patient: 1.5 million.
Varadkar (studying the patient): Do you by any chance work in garda crime statistics?
Patient: Yes! How did you guess?
Varadkar (to Doherty, replacing chart): There’s nothing wrong with him, nurse – just keep him under observation for a while. (He hands the patient a whistle.) You may need this. Whenever you feel the urge, just blow it.
They walk on, passing some nuns.
Varadkar (smiling): Good morning, sisters.
Nuns: Good morning, Dr Varadkar.
Varadkar (to Doherty, under his breath): What the hell are they doing here? I thought Harris got rid of them.
Doherty: They’re pastoral care. They’re just visiting.
Varadkar: Well, keep an eye on them. Don’t let them near my office. (They stop at another bed.) Who do we have here? (He studies the chart and looks up, surprised.) Ah, it’s the famous Joe Public. I’ve heard so much about you.
Joe Public (grumpily): I’ve heard plenty about you too. I want a different doctor.
Varadkar (Distracted by a bleep from his pager and reading message): Incoming emergency at A&E… two patients airlifted from Northern Ireland… critical condition. (He returns Joe Public’s chart, and nods to him). I’ll be back. Follow me, nurse.
The A & E department, moments later.
Varadkar (to paramedics attending the first patient, who is wearing a suit and a “Vote SDLP” rosette): Where did this guy come from?
Paramedic: Altnagelvin. They couldn’t do anything for him there.
Varadkar (checking the man’s pulse and not finding one): I doubt we can do much for him here either. (He shouts to the nurses). Defib now! (They clamp paddles to the patient’s chest while Dr Varadkar turns on the other arrival, who also sports a rosette, and is being attended to by renowned cardiologist Dr Charlie Flanagan).
Varadkar: Where did this one come from?
Flanagan (performing CPR): Belfast Royal – I do consulting there as you know. I flew in with him on the helicopter.
Varadkar (reading rosette): “Vote Ulster Unionist”? What the hell is it with moderate Northern politicians? (He looks at the heart monitor which has just flatlined.) Damn.
Flanagan (giving up, with a sigh, and turning to the paramedics attending the SDLP man): Any luck there?
Paramedic: We’ve just lost him, doctor.
Flanagan (shaking his head sadly and quoting poetry): Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.
Varadkar: Ah, yes. Yeats.
Doherty: I didn’t know Ivan was a poet?
Flanagan: Sometimes I think I’m getting too old for this job.
Varadkar (Patting him on the arm): Don’t blame yourself, Charlie. (Lowering voice.) But funny you should mention it because, between ourselves, Dr Coveney has been asking me about the possibility of his taking over your role.
Flanagan: Has he now? The two-faced Langer. And I was only playing golf with him the other day.
Varadkar: I need to carry out a bit of a reorganisation around here, as you know. But we can discuss that later. (To the paramedics.) Keep those two hooked up to life support for a while, just in case – maybe the nuns can work a miracle. If all else fails, we might be able to harvest organs.
Back on the wards, later. Dr Varadkar renews acquaintance with Joe Public.
Varadkar (reading files): So the x-rays tell us you have something you shouldn’t have.
Public: What’s that?
Varadkar: Unemployment benefit and a medical card.
Public: What makes you think I shouldn’t have those?
Varadkar: An anonymous tip-off by a concerned member of the public. (He taps the x-ray file.) Confirmed by our investigations.
Public: Bleedin’ touts.
Nurse Doherty (wagging finger at patient): Welfare cheats cheat us all.
Varadkar: Exactly. That’s why I’m recommending immediate surgery.
Public: I demand a second opinion.
Varadkar: OK. Here’s Dr Martin. Give him a second opinion, Dr Martin.
Micheál Martin: Well, if I were in charge, I might do it differently. But in the spirit of new medicine, and under the terms of our confidence and supply arrangement, I reluctantly agree with Dr Varadkar.
Vardakar (to waiting orderlies): Take him to the theatre.
Public (being wheeled away): I’ve been stitched up!
Varadkar: You will be, I promise. (He walks on, masterfully, as a ray of sunlight suddenly fills the ward. Then he notices Nurse Doherty staring after him, in an apparent trance.) What’s the matter?
Doherty: You’re just… (she sighs deeply)… so darned handsome.
Varadkar (smiling): Yes, I know. But you need to pull yourself together, nurse. We have work to do.