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Chapter 3: Page 5 – The Surgeon's Wife


Mike took a straight-back chair and dragged it near the desk to sit in front of McLaughlin. “Listen carefully,” Mike said. “A majority of the OR committee is very concerned over this bariatric issue. And the technical failure, too. Orthopedics will turn this into a battle against surgery that will up their power in the OR. And they’ve got a silver-bullet issue here. Believe me, this is not the time to dodge and weave.”

McLaughlin frowned. “Clayton doesn’t deserve this,” he said and picked up the report, tilting his head to focus his reading glasses. He scanned it just enough to shiver with a shard of fear over the potential damage it contained.

Mike stared. Hammond played favorites. His best skill was politics. He avoided conflicts and rarely made decisions unless pressed. But most disturbing, he resented the good surgeons, resented what they could do, what he would never achieve in the OR. He had built his shaky power base in administration to find some value in his career.

“Can this report be trusted?” McLaughlin asked.

Mike tensed. “Nothing is faked. I’m chair of the OR committee. I don’t make up bad outcomes.”

McLaughlin tilted back in his chair. He wasn’t finished talking. “We can’t restrict our faculty,” he said thoughtfully. “We hire a guy like Clayton, he comes to do his thing. He’s honest, trying to do the best he can. Volume is important. He ought to have the right to choose his cases.”

Mike leaned forward. “Clayton’s advertising. Orthopedics is right to be upset. The marketers fake pre-op shots using actors with pillows stuffed in their clothes, then cut to fake post-ops with the same guy strutting fatless on a beach in a Speedo. That’s not helping the sick, that’s looking for people who will agree to a risky operation.”

“That’s unfair . . .”

“Fair is exactly how most of the OR committee sees it. They might let Clayton operate after a lap bleed-out, but they didn’t like that it was obese elective surgery.”

Mike made an effort to keep his voice normal. He took the report from McLaughlin and stood.

“This was gathered by the committee coordinator. It will be committee information. Unless you take action, the committee will take action. It will be common knowledge. The world will come down on us.”

“Calm down.” McLaughlin paused. “Look. I see your point.”

“I need action. Not understanding.”

“I’ll call a task force. That’s the way to handle it. That way all sides can be heard.”

“This is not a sporting event, Hammond. The department needs to publish strict indications.”

McLaughlin looked up at him. “A task force is action. No one could fault that.”

“We’re trying to improve patient care, not escape fault.”

“Patient care issues need a measured, non-emotional approach.” Hammond wrote names on a pad. “Use these names. They’re our friends; you choose more if you need to.”

“The task force will have more clout if the names come directly from you,” Mike said.

“You’re the one with a carrot up your ass.”

As Mike walked out, he gave a full list of names to McLaughlin’s administrative assistant to make the arrangements for the first task force meeting. He had little respect for McLaughlin’s delaying tactics. It could take months to work this out, for better or for worse.