Two weeks later, Mike left the chilled, filtered air of an operating room, lowered his surgical mask as he walked down the humid hall, and went into the dressing room. He took a white lab coat from the hook in his locker and retrieved his wallet and keys from the upper shelf. He pulled his lab coat on over his green scrubs and walked to the elevator.
Four minutes later he was on the twelfth floor. He opened the door to the administrative conference room.
Around the long, oval oak table in straight-backed wooden chairs sat the members of the hospital OR committee: nine surgeons, each representing a department; an OR coordinator; a secretary for minutes; an assistant dean; and the chair of anesthesia. He sat in the only empty chair, left vacant for him as the chair of the committee and chief of surgery. He never thought to apologize for his lateness; he was often late, but, as all the others knew, it wasn’t because he was lazy or slow. His time was never his own. No one in the room, friend or foe, blamed him. He nodded to the secretary, who started a tape recorder.
He followed the agenda: minutes approved, a vote on a new tech position, approval of a staged renovation of recovery room C, all thirteen items above five thousand dollars approved for purchase, financial stats since December reviewed. He could feel the unusual tension in the room. If he could delay consideration of Paul’s report on Clayton until the next meeting, he might fix Clayton’s problems and lessen the severity of the committee action. He was about to close the meeting.
Janet from orthopedics stood up demanding attention for new business. She was the first one to stand since the beginning of the meeting. He’d seen her memos about surgery for the obese. She was on a crusade against surgery for weight loss, and even though Clayton’s technical mistake was not directly related to obesity, it happened during a procedure for weight control and was exactly the ammunition she needed to load her gun for lethal shots against the surgeons. “You can sit down,” Mike said.
She ignored him. “Each of you has read my risk management memo. Each of you knows about this OR error of Otherson’s.” She paused. “A life-threatening complication of a gastric bypass! Bleeding out. Otherson should have his privileges rescinded.”
“A report has been filed,” Mike said. “It needs to come through channels.”
“We have responsibilities to make corrections now,” Janet said.
“The patient has no permanent damage,” a general surgeon said. “You just don’t like the operation.”
“It’s Otherson,” she said with a controlled voice. “Making advertising claims that can’t be true. Operating on anything that walks in the door. Threatening the life of a patient.”
“I don’t understand,” Oral Surgery said.
“You’re a fucking dentist,” Janet replied.
“I’m dual trained.” He shrugged his shoulders and looked around the table for support. No one responded.
“It’s the bypass surgery. They’re . . .” Janet stared at Mike. “. . . on television, and radio.”