It’s an exciting day for everybody at Eoin O’Duffy Memorial Infirmary, AKA Blueshirt General, as hospital master Leo Varadkar unveils Project Infirmary 2040: a €116bn plan for the next two decades and beyond. MC John Concannon oversees the media Q & A.
Concannon: Ok, folks. Dr Varadkar is a busy man, so we only have time for one more question Yes, you, the jaded-looking hack at the back there.
Jaded hack (holding up the report): Thanks, guys. There’s about 300 pages in this thing – we can’t seriously be expected to read it. So if you had to condense it into a couple of keywords, doctor, what would they be?
Varadkar: Gosh, you’re putting me on the spot there. But all right. I would say the crucial terms are “vision” and “long-term”. Too often, hospitals are fixated on the present: coping with the latest emergency or epidemic. From now on things will be different. With this plan – at the risk of sounding like Captain Kirk – I intended to lead us boldly where no hospital has gone before: to infinity and beyond.
Concannon: All right folks. We’ve gotta get back to work here. Thanks for coming.
Varadkar (to Concannon): Well, how’d I do?
Concannon: Great. Loved the bit about long-term vision – that’s always important. Although on social media, it’s the next 15 minutes that really matter. So what I love even more is that you’ve got 500 likes already. (He presses button on phone). Make that 501.
Back on the wards, later. Stopping by a patient’s bed, Dr Varadkar picks up the chart.
Varadkar: Who have we got here? Oh right, I see you’re a random northsider.
Northsider: Bad circulation. I believe I’m having something fitted in me arteries that’ll improve it eventually.
Varadkar: Ah, yes. The new “Metro North” treatment as we call it. It’s all in our 2040 plan – I remember you now. (He replaces the chart. Then, to a nurse:) Check his prostate as well, while you’re at it.
Northsider: Why do I need me prostate checked?
Varadkar (winking at patient) You know yourself. We always like to look after the, er, southside too. They move on to another bed.
Varadkar (reading chart): Ah it’s our old friend Rural Ireland, yet again. What are you in for this time?
Rural Ireland: The usual. Chronic neglect.
Varadkar: But we seem to have been discussing your condition forever here.
Rural Ireland: Yes, that’s all ye do – discuss it. Meanwhile, I’m dying. I’ve been dying for years.
Varadkar: So I’ve heard. Yet you’re still here, more or less.
Rural Ireland: Give it to me straight, doc. How long have I ?
Varadkar: I don’t know to be honest. But read this (he hands the patient a copy of the 2040 plan).
Rural Ireland: Will it make me better?
Varadkar: Not really. It’s just that in the unlikely event you reach the end of it, death won’t seem so unattractive anymore. (A student nurse, looking stressed from overwork, approaches in a hurry.)
Nurse: Dr Harris asks if you could drop by the Eye and Ear Department as soon as possible. He has a patient he’d like you to look at.
Varadkar: Ok, will do. You’re one of those student nurses who will be getting permanent job offers soon, aren’t you? You must be thrilled?
Nurse (sarcastically): Yes, it’s an exciting opportunity to work longer than I would in other countries, for a lot less. And If I took on a second job – say prostitution – I might even be able to rent an apartment in Dublin eventually.
Varadkar: Oh well, look on the bright side. A job is still a job, eh?
Nurse: You’re right. I’m starting one with the NHS in Liverpool next week.
Varadkar: Er, I’ll go see Dr Harris now.
Later, in the Eye and Ear Department.
Harris: So this old guy here claims to be having some sort of vision. But we know it’s not real because he’s chronically short-sighted. Can’t see further than his nose.
Varadkar (reading chart): Bertie Ahern? Where have I seen that name before? Wait! Wasn’t there a Bertie Ahern who used to be master here once, way back when it was run by the Order of the Creepin’ Jesuses or something?
Harris: Yes, he mentioned that too. But this vision of his…
Bertie (reading from a 300-page document): “We now have a 20-year framework for planning that will match people, places and potential across this entire hospital. It will mean an end to the short short-termism that has blighted our outlook in the past. It is, in short, a vision for the next two decades: taking us to 2020 and beyond…
Varadkar (grabbing the document and skimming through it): This all looks oddly familiar.
Harris: What should we do?
Varadkar (handing document to nurse): Burn that for starters. As for him, don’t let him talk to the media. And whatever medication you have him on, increase it.
Harris: We’ve been treating him for senile dementia, basically.
Varadkar: Good. If he doesn’t develop that naturally, try hitting him on the head.