It’s another busy morning in the Eoin O’Duffy Memorial Infirmary, aka Blueshirt General. Hospital Master Dr Varadkar makes a round of the wards in the company of Head Matron Frances Fitzgerald.
Varadkar (studying his Twitter feed): Gosh – look at this. A surgeon claims to have carried out the world’s first human head transplant during an operation in China.
Fitzgerald: What – on a living patient?
Varadkar: No, only a corpse. But “announcing the breakthrough, controversial surgeon Sergio Canavaro said a similar operation on a live patient is now imminent”.
Fitzgerald: It sounds monstrous.
Varadkar: Maybe. Still, march of science and all that. Maybe we’ll think of it as normal some day. But here comes Spin-Doctor Concannon in a big hurry. There must be trouble somewhere.
John Concannon: We need you in SCU, Leo. Pronto. Seems we have a major emergency on our hands.
Varadkar: What is it?
Concannon: I’m not sure yet. It looks like the winter vomiting bug, but more serious. We’re in danger of losing patients.
Varadkar (smiling): I’m always in danger of losing patience. But excuse me for joking. Alright, I’m on my way. We’ll finish our tour later, matron.
The SCU department, shortly afterwards.
Concannon (giving Varadkar a face mask): Here, you’ll need this. Whatever it is, it’s highly contagious.
Varadkar (donning mask and reading patient’s chart): Nausea. Panic attacks. High temperature. Mysterious itchy rash on posterior. Let me guess: is this patient a member of the political profession, by any chance?
Concannon: Yes, I think he’s what they call a backbencher. Have you seen this before?
Varadkar: No, but I read about it in med school. It’s called Election Fever. But it’s the worst kind of Election Fever: one that breaks out in December. Hasn’t happened in Ireland since 1918.
Concannon: Really? And what happened then.
Varadkar: It wiped out an entire generation of politicians. The moderate ones, anyway. It attacked Redmondite Blood Cells in particular. All the older patients lost their seats.
Concannon (grimacing): Ouch. That explains the rash.
Varadkar: We need to find out what’s causing this, and fast. There must be somebody spreading the infection.
Concannon: Well, that’s the thing. I’m reluctant to say this, but…
Varadkar: What? Spit it out, doctor. There’s no time to lose.
Concannon: The only thing the affected patients seem to have in common is that they were all in contact with the matron.
Varadkar: What? Matron Fitzgerald? It can’t be. She’s forever washing her hands. She’s so clean she squeaks when walking.
Concannon: Maybe. But Dr Martin seems to think she’s connected. And by the way, he wants a meeting with you. He says it’s urgent.
Dr Varadkar’s office later.
Varadkar: You’ve lost what?
Martin: You heard me. I’ve lost confidence in the matron. I’m tabling a motion to that effect, unless you get rid of her.
Varadkar: You can’t seriously blame Matron Fitzgerald for starting this. She’s cleaner than a nun’s knickers. I’m not throwing a good woman under a bus for no reason.
Martin: It doesn’t have to be a bus. It could be a tram. And you could make it look like an accident.
Varadkar: What? Jesus! The bus was only a metaphor, for Christ’s sake.
Martin: Ha, ha! I know. Just letting off steam, Leo. I’m under pressure too. I don’t want to risk election fever in mid-December either. But you have to suspend the matron. Or I’ll have to advise closing the hospital for safety reasons.
Varadkar: Okay, let’s not do anything rash. Let me think about it. There must be some way we can resolve this without losing face.
The hospital corridors, later. Dr Varadkar and Matron Fitzgerald resume their round.
Fitzgerald: I heard you stood up for me in the showdown with Dr Martin. And of course in those radio and TV interviews. Thanks.
Varadkar: Of course I did.
Fitzgerald: But to think they’re blaming me, of all people, for causing this outbreak. It’s preposterous.
Varadkar (looking shifty now). Yes. And yet, it is a striking coincidence that you seem to have been in the room immediately before all these patients first showed symptoms.
Fitzgerald: But to use your own word in one of those interviews, that’s no excuse for “decapitating” me. What a strange term, by the way. You must have been thinking of that mad surgeon in China?
Varadkar: Yeah. Eh, speaking of which. (Two men in white coats take Fitzgerald and lead her into the operating theatre).
Fitzgerald: Get your hands off me. What’s going on? Oh my God, Leo – you’re having me decapitated!
Varadkar: Don’t be silly. It’s just a head-matron transplant in this case. And it’s only temporary. Maybe.
Fitzgerald is dragged away screaming. The credits roll.