The Easter recess is over and the Eoin O’Duffy Memorial Infirmary is returning to full operations, in more ways than one. Hospital master Leo Varadkar prepares for a delicate procedure on a visiting American, with the help of a committee of assistant surgeons.
Varadkar: What’s this guy’s name again?
Surgeon Timmy Dooley: Kaplan, I think. But we just call him Mr Facebook – it’s easier to remember
Varadkar: Okay, Mr Facebook. We need to carry out a small probe of your interior. It may involve some “scraping” of data, as you call it in the States.
Facebook: Will it hurt?
Dooley: We certainly hope so.
Facebook: (panicking): What?
Surgeon Lawless (James): The gloves are off, pal.
Varadkar: Put the gloves back on, Lawless, you’re not in Kildare, or whatever bog you came from, now. (To Facebook, handing him a document) We need to sign this consent form, sir. Preferably without reading it first.
Facebook (studying form in horror): But it says here you reserve the right to share some or all of my organs with third parties?
Varadkar: Gosh – does it?
Facebook: Yes. I’m not signing that!
Dooley (to Varadkar): I told you we should have made the small print smaller.
Varadkar (taking form back): Okay, maybe we’ll try again later when the anaesthetic has kicked in. For now, let’s operate.
Facebook: Before the anaesthetic takes effect?
Varadkar: Don’t worry – you won’t feel more than slight discomfort. Isn’t that right, Nurse Naughton?
Hildegarde Naughton: Yes, we’re famously gentle on Americans who invest billions in our hospital.
Varadkar: The truth is, we just need to make you squirm a little – for public relations purposes. And we don’t need you to sign for that. (He produces another consent form). Your boss Mr Zuckerberg has already given us the go-ahead.
Elsewhere in the hospital, later. During an inspection of wards with Dr Harris, the hospital master is pleasantly surprised by the lack of overcrowding.
Varadkar: According to the hospital newspaper, there were 26 people on trolleys here yesterday. Now I see only three?
Harris: Well, you know what the press is like – they always exaggerate. But there’s an ebb and flow to these things anyway. Yesterday might have been unusually high.
Varadkar: And yet the same thing happened the last time I was here. The paper had reported 27 on trolleys then. There were only two when I arrived.
Harris: Well, it is the Our Lady of Lourdes ward. You’d expect some miraculous recoveries.
Varadkar: May I be candid with you, Dr Harris? (He looks him in the eye). I’m hearing there’s a phenomenon known as the “Leo dip”. It means that whenever people hear I’m about to visit a ward, the number of patients on trolleys there drops mysteriously. How do you explain that?
Harris (looking shifty): Er, it could be that you yourself have supernatural powers?
Varadkar: Right. And how exactly would they work
Harris: In some cases, hearing of your approach, people on trolleys may undergo otherwise inexplicable recoveries. Or if they’re really sick, the beds available might suddenly multiply.
Varadkar: Hmmm When you put it like that, it seems plausible. Keep up the good work, everybody. I’ll be back for another surprise visit this time next week.
A hospital corridor, later. During a walk and talk with his deputy master, Simon Coveney, Dr Varadkar notices a familiar figure lurking.
Varadkar: Don’t look now, but see that old, dishevelled guy near the coffee machine, talking to a TV camera? He’s been all over the place recently – who the hell is he?
Coveney: He’s Bertie something, claims he’s a former master, back when this place was run by the Order of St Luke’s.
Varadkar: What’s he doing here this week?
Coveney: It’s the 20th anniversary of some historic operation he claims to have overseen, apparently. Somebody’s doing a documentary on it.
Varadkar: Let’s eavesdrop. (He stops by the coffee machine, ordering a skinny half-caff flat white).
Ahern: …And of course dere was a lotta of setbacks along de way. I lost me patience a few times, I can tell ye, ha, ha. Aldough I covered it up well. But finally de whole ting came togedder. Den we took Articles Two and Tree out. De rest was histry.
Varadkar (walking away with coffee): Did he really say he lost patients and covered it up?
Coveney: That’s what I heard too. He seemed to find it funny.
Varadkar: If I thought for a moment it was true, I’d report him to the medical council. But he’s clearly just an old fantasist.
Coveney: Probably. I mean, not to be snobbish about it, but he doesn’t exactly sound like one of us.
Varadkar: No. Not that we sound the same, Simon – you’ve got one of those regional accents, obviously. And yet somehow it’s almost as posh as mine.
Varadkar: I’m sure he’s harmless enough, but still. (To nearby security man) Keep an eye on that old guy over at the coffee machine, will you? Don’t let him near any of the places we keep drugs or money.