(Continued from Infected III)
“Where is Dr. Lucy?” Julius demands. “She is the one who admitted me, so it is only fair that she is the one who discharges me.”
“I am sorry sir,” Dr. Flavian says, his tone becoming formal and crisp. “But you do not teach me how to do my job. Dr. Lucy did not have authority to admit you here in the first place. I have come to clean up her mess.”
Julius considers the doctor for a moment, and then decides that there is no point of arguing with him.
“Okay doctor. Give me twenty minutes so that I can organize my transport out of here.”
“I thought I was informed that your car is in the parking lot?”
“You think this is a joke doctor?” Julius asks, his voice rising. “My wife just died, and my whole body is in pain. Give me twenty minutes and I will get out of your lousy institution. Tell the Governor I said I want twenty minutes then he can have his room back.”
The doctor hesitates, surprised at the outburst. The truth is that he feels bad for doing this, but he needs this job. He is surprised that Julius knows about the Governor. He starts to say something but he changes his mind, so he just nods and heads for the door.
“And tell him I pray that he contracts the disease pretty soon so that he actually gets to use these facilities,” Julius calls out as the doctor exits.
After the doctor leaves, Julius calls Sam, Grace’s boss. Sam was also the best man in their wedding and has become a close friend over the years, their difference in years notwithstanding. Sam is also the chairperson of the Association of Shava Business People, and Julius had decided last night that he would call him first thing in the morning to discuss the issue of the missing PPEs. But the news of his wife’s death disoriented him.
He should have been the person Julius called immediately after calling his and Grace’s parents, but the truth is that he is feeling overwhelmed. He is still processing the death of his wife, and his own body is increasingly in pain.
“I was just about to call you,” Sam says. “I am supposed to be in a meeting with Grace but she is not here yet. Her phone is off and I cannot reach her online. Would you know where she is?”
“Yes Sam, I know where she is.”
“Is there a problem? Are you okay? You sound off.”
“Sam, the thing is, Grace passed away this morning.” Julius is doing everything to stop himself from crying.
“No Julius, that can’t be true. I was with her in a meeting just yesterday morning and she was just fine. What happened?”
“Suspected COVID-19. She texted me in the evening to get her painkillers, but by the time I got there she was very ill. I brought her to Shava Hospital and she was admitted, but she died two hours after we got here.”
“I am so sorry Julius, and shocked beyond words. Where are you?”
“That is the other reason I was calling you. I am also admitted at Shava Hospital because I am also showing COVID symptoms. But this hospital is kicking me out. Can you arrange transport for me to be taken to Meke Mission? I have been given twenty minutes to get out of here.”
“Sure, no problem. But why are they kicking you out if you are unwell?”
“The corruption in this place is stinking to the high heavens, Sam. Just imagine, when we got here last night, the nurse I found told me that the hospital’s COVID unit was full. But it turns out that they had two vacant ICU beds and two isolation rooms. The doctor on call, her name is Lucy, told me that they were under instructions from the hospital director to reserve two slots for the Governor.”
“Is the Governor unwell?”
“That is exactly what I asked. Apparently the Governor wants the two slots just in case any of his relatives fall sick.”
“But that is just insane!”
“That is not all. That doctor who admitted Grace and I last night did not have the full PPE attire, the reason being that the hospital doesn’t have PPEs except face masks and gloves.”
“But didn’t we donate full PPE kits to that hospital just the other day?”
“According to the doctor, they have never seen them.”
“That is immoral. I have to bring it to the attention of the Association’s members.”
The only thing that Lucy wants to do when she gets to her house is sleep, but she knows that she does not have that luxury. She knows she will be summoned to the hospital as soon as the director gets to the office. So she showers and dresses before making breakfast.
She realizes that something is wrong after the first bite: the food is tasteless. She goes to her bedroom, picks her strongest perfume and sprays her clothes. Nothing. Her sense of smell has also disappeared.
She wills herself not to panic because she needs to be clear-headed when she meets the director. She slowly but deliberately starts eating her tasteless breakfast. She is midway through that breakfast when the call comes. The director’s secretary calls her and tells her that the director wants to see her urgently. Lucy politely tells her that she is on her way, but she continues to take her breakfast slowly. When she is done, she brushes her teeth and goes back to the hospital.
She doesn’t hate the director, but she finds some of his decisions to be juvenile. It is almost as if he wants to prove a point. Their relationship has been frosty since she stopped him from sending her love messages late at night, and she knows that he will gleefully berate and perhaps even suspend her. Maybe he has been instructed by the Governor to fire her
She is nervous about this meeting. In spite of her bravado last night, she cannot afford to lose this job. But she is determined not to give him the advantage of seeing her beg.
The director’s office is on the fourth floor of the hospital’s administration block. It is a large spacious office. Lucy has been here many times before, even before this director took office. It is an awe-inspiring place. During the term of the previous director, it was sparsely furnished, with a modest desk, a modest chair and nice but inexpensive curtains and rug. What made the office awe-inspiring during that time was the sheer presence of the Director.
Dr. Henry is a very intense man. He is short and leaning on the heavier side. He has a very sharp mind. If you ever had to report anything to Director Henry, you had to get your facts and analysis right because he would put you on the spot, his inquisitive eyes boring right through your soul.
But he was also a very kind man, if you could get beyond the intensity of his personality. He was secure both in his small, rounded body, which could have made many men insecure, and in his professional achievements. Most staff members agreed that he was the finest director in the history of the hospital.
Now, though, it is the office itself that inspires awe. Director Vincent removed Henry’s cheap desk and replaced it with a mahogany mammoth plus a massive leather chair. He replaced the curtains and rug with super-expensive ones. When you step into the office, is screams money.
But the director himself has a weak personality. He is tall and well-built, but he is a very insecure man. He is loud, arrogant and vulgar, but that only strengthens the notion that he is a weak man. Everyone knows that he uses loudness and profanity to mask his insecurities.
“I don’t like being kept waiting, doctor,” he says impatiently when Lucy finally makes her way to the office.
“If you had told me yesterday that you would need me here at eight, I would have been here precisely at eight. But your secretary called me only thirty minutes ago as I was freshening up. I had to finish my breakfast before coming.”
“You cannot choose food over your duties, doctor.”
“I had just finished my shift, and your secretary did not say there was a medical emergency here. Or is there, director? Is there a medical emergency at the hospital?”
“I am fed up with your arrogance, Lucy. Can you explain to me why you admitted two COVID patients last night against my clear instructions?”
“It is very simple, director. The patients were unwell and we had the capacity to help. I did what every decent doctor would have done: putting human lives before everything else.”
Director Vincent glares at her with eyes full of hatred and she returns the stare defiantly.
“You will have to take your arrogance somewhere else. You are fired.”
As Lucy walks back to her house, she wonders whether she has just acted stupidly. Her savings have been depleted by her mother’s cancer treatment, so she has nothing to live on until she finds another job. And getting another job might prove a tall order if the Governor decides to use his influence with other Governors to frustrate her.
If she has COVID, and there is every indication that she does, and she gets ill at night, then she might just follow Grace unto death. Shava Hospital will not admit her. When she gets to her house, she realizes that she has a more immediate problem. She finds three hospital workers throwing her things out of the staff house. In her current state, if the grim reaper comes with COVID to get her, they will find her out in the cold.
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