It’s another busy morning in Eoin O’Duffy Memorial Infirmary, aka Blueshirt General, as hospital master Leo Varadkar and his colleagues deal with the combined effects of flu season, Halloween, and the fall-out from a vicious brawl near Áras an Uachtaráin.
Varadkar (seeing yet another patient wheeled in on a trolley): What’s the story with this guy?
Paramedic 1: Severe concussion, we think. He got into a fight with Travellers.
Peter Casey (from trolley): There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m going to be the next president of Ireland.
Paramedic 2: Or it may be an underlying psychiatric disorder. Apparently he’s been behaving erratically for weeks.
Casey: I’m perfectly sane. If not president, I’ll be the next Fianna Fáil taoiseach.
Micheál Martin: He’s clearly off his rocker.
Varadkar: I remind you, Dr Martin, we don’t tolerate language like that in my hospital. Not even from temporary support staff. (He holds his hand in front of Casey’s face). How many fingers can you count?
Casey: Two. And you’re pointing them at the hard-working tax-payer, just like Travellers have done for years.
Paramedic 1 (to Paramedic 2): He’s not wrong there.
Casey: And social welfare scroungers. They’re taking us for a ride too. There’ll be no more of that when I’m leading the country.
Paramedic 2 (to Paramedic 1): This man’s talking sense.
Varadkar (holding stethoscope to Casey’s head and listening): Hmm. It could be just the effects of an enlarged ego.
Martin: Takes one to know one.
Varadkar (to the paramedics): Bring him to the isolation unit for now. Keep him there until we find out if he’s infectious.
Paramedic 1: (muttering as they wheel Casey away): It’s PC gone mad. Oops – I didn’t mean you, Mr Casey.
Varadkar (quietly, to a nurse): You better lock that pair in with him. Whatever it is, they seem to have caught it already.
A bustling corridor, later. Dr Varadkar meets the deputy master, Dr Coveney, who looks worried.
Coveney (handing over file): You need to have a look at this. It’s the pathology report on Mr Khashoggi.
Varadkar (reading): Salmonella?
Coveney: Crown Prince Salmonella. They’re not saying it killed him, but it looks like it was a major contributor.
Varadkar: Well, er, speaking of major contributors, the Saudis have always been great supporters of the hospital. We wouldn’t want to embarrass them, would we?
Coveney: Of course not.
Varadkar: A few stern words will do. Then file that away somewhere safe. Ah, here’s Dr Donohoe, with another file.
Paschal Donohoe (grinning broadly): Have you seen these? Latest findings from Red C and MRBI about this season’s flu viruses. Looks like the big thing could be election fever.
Varadkar: Let’s walk and talk. (As they stroll down the corridor, Varadkar scans the figures). This suggests that, if there was a major outbreak now, certain groups would be more at risk.
Donohoe: Yes. Fianna Fáilers, Shinners and Trots mainly.
Varadkar: Whereas other groups appear to have stronger immunity at this time?
Donohoe: Fine Gaelers and people who get up early, yes. (He whispers) Our sort, basically.
Varadkar: But getting back to these poor, vulnerable groups for a minute, presumably the last thing they need any time soon would be having to go out and knock on doors and shake hands and all that high-risk stuff? So in the interest of public health, we should urge the, er, powers that be to avoid calling an election at this time?
Donohoe: On the other hand, there’ll have to be an election sooner or later. And whenever it happens, there’ll be viruses going round. Only the next ones might be even worse for society as a whole.
Varadkar: Gosh, it’s a difficult moral dilemma, isn’t it?
Donohoe: Not really. The Hypocritic – I mean Hippocratic – Oath clearly argues for an election now. You have to think of the general wellbeing. Or in this case, Blueshirt General’s wellbeing. Let’s face it, that’s what really matters.
Varadkar: All right, let me sleep on it. We need to find out a bit more about the “Casey Effect” before doing anything rash.
The operating theatre, later. Chief surgeon Simon Harris recognises a celebrity patient.
Harris: You’re the man from Dragon’s Den, aren’t you? What has you in here?
Gavin Duffy (face down on trolley): Well, I myself didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just that I got slightly ahead of where public concerns were around the challenges we as a people face (he waffles on for five minutes).
Nurse: And while he was slightly ahead of them, the electorate inserted this. (She holds up an X-ray).
Harris: Ouch. A wooden spoon!
Duffy: Do you think you can remove it safely, doctor? I’m worried it will affect my image as a successful businessman and master communicator (he continues waffling).
Harris: Well, I like your presentation and I wish you well.
Harris: But wooden spoon removal is not something I have much interest in. And I’m not sure the voters want their spoon back in these circumstances – that’s very much a niche market. So for those reasons, I’m afraid, I’m out.