Excerpt from “Politics IOU” by Ella Bevan
Liberty in the medical sector in Shadow City, was evaporating like a mist on a summer morn.
The cost of medications had skyrocketed until they reached a level higher than what the average man could pay. Big Pharma had decided that they would have to find someone to pick up the exorbitant tab. When electronics also entered into the field of medicine with its expensive diagnostic machines, one after another hospital (all in deep fiscal trouble) began to fail. All over the nation (and especially in Health Care) the numbers weren’t adding up.
Nice Government Men, all with the best of intentions (and an eye on the next election) had legislated that all the hospitals had to treat anybody who arrived at their doors in Emergency; whether citizens, whether they had the funds or the insurance or not. Indigents and illegals quickly took advantage. The hospitals were being forced into free service = free fall. It was a medical fiscal cliff.
Rith, the Director of Volunteer Services in Shadow Community Hospital was a woman whose good looks were understated. She loved her volunteers and she loved the hospital for her job gave her the opportunity to help others. She had known her hospital was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and that the Board of Directors had sacked the old CEO and appointed a new and younger corporate leader. This didn’t phase her for the hospital did not have to pay her volunteers. Because Rith was popular and a good organizer, her Auxiliary was able to pick up several vital hospital functions that had been dropped after the recent layoffs.
She didn’t like the new man; this new pompous CEO, but who was she to say? She was content to stay out of the limelight, do her job and do it well. She figured that in the end it would all come out alright. There were sick people and an aging population and they all needed help. The need was not going to go away.
She walked along the slate pathway through the exquisite rose garden past the patio, giving her fundraiser Ginsee a cheerful wave. The new CEO had banished her fundraising events from the front lobby to the patio, and she knew that the Auxiliary-Pledge, usually a very generous gift to the hospital, would be about half this year. The volunteers were just not getting the support from the hospital that they deserved.
Rith had almost reached the entrance to the hospital when she saw or rather heard the commotion. What was going on? She could see her seventy-five octogenarian volunteers parading in a long line in front of the newly remodeled hospital entrance. Some volunteers were behind walkers, some were leaning on walking sticks, and many were in power-wheelchairs or on scooters. Everybody was there; Rith had not seen such a turn-out of her volunteers before. It was something else! They were holding up (or trying to hold) big, heavy, aggressive, bold signs.
“NO FREE LUNCH, NO FREE WORK!”
“WE WANT OUR VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION DINNER”
“WE DEMAND AN AUDIT OF OUR CONTRIBUTIONS”
“WE ‘RE THE PINK LADIES AND DON’T THINK WE’RE YELLOW!”
“THIS AUXILIARY IS ON STRIKE”
“Yes I get that,Pearl!” said Rith, breaking into a run.
Pearl, the diminutive Auxiliary president, was out in front leading the parade.
“Did you call me, Rith?” she inquired demurely, having left the line and coming up quietly next to Rith. Pearl was just shy of five feet, and she could almost fit under Rith’s left elbow.
“What on earth are you up to?”
“Can’t you see? We are on strike!”
“Volunteers don’t strike,” said Rith through clenched teeth.
“Pearl! Get back here; we need you to lead us!” yelled a gray haired volunteer who was doubled up with laughter. She had not had this much fun, not in her full seventy years.
Pearl skipped back to the front of the line and took her position as the leader of the pack. She picked up her megaphone and yelled: “Don’t you ever dare take us for granted again!” She was proudly leading them, all four foot eleven of her, their new, feisty president, firm and resolute! Rith penetrated the inner line and pulled out Jay, the vice president; she pulled him out by his last four gray hairs. Usually she could depend on this intelligent man for stability and sane solutions.
“Jay, Jay what on earth are you doing?”
“We’re striking,” he said mildly looking up at her.
“That I can see! What situation precipitated it?”
“You know how it has been. It began to get bad after the hospital was bought out.”
“Yes, I do know all about that, but Jay, there must have been something, one big thing that upset you’ all?”
“There was no Volunteer Appreciation.”
“No Volunteer Dinner?” Rith was astounded. She had left it all organized before her trip.
“He canceled it. “
“Who canceled it?”
“The new CEO and he also canceled our free cafeteria lunches.
Rats! This was trouble; big trouble! This CEO was typical of a new class of manager coming in dedicated to cutting costs, looking good to the share-holders and making a tidy profit, rather than dedicated to good organization and to good healing.
“Jay, you know that volunteers don’t strike.”
“Yes that is what I told Pearl,” said the placid, little man.
“And what did she say?”
He blinked his eyes, “She said: “Don’t be such a wimp, Jay, do you want him to walk all over us?”
“She said what?”
“What could I do?” He looked up at Rith, eyes wide.
“For heaven sakes Jay, there are going to be consequences.”
“Really?” Rith hoped she was not too late to calm the waters.
She walked off to find the new CEO, who was, as she well knew, the real culprit here; this new CEO brought in to save the hospital money. With volunteers all you had to work with, was their willingness? Did he not understand this?
She knew that her volunteers loved their annual event; they had been planning a dress-up party with a fashion show! They had even chosen their outfits and they were going to do the modeling themselves. This type of event was right down Pearl’s alley and she had drummed up much excitement in her followers. She had even arranged that the clothing the volunteer models were going to show would be donated by a few local clothing stores. These ladies were all on a fixed income so this meant a lot to them. Hot skies above, after all the volunteers had done for the hospital, why deny them this little night of pleasure? Did this new CEO have any idea how much her volunteers saved the hospital? They worked the front desk, they manned the phones, they handled the backroom paperwork, and they even conducted valet parking! It was going to take some damage control, and she hoped that she was not too late to save the day.
Back in front of the hospital entrance, she found the supercilious man confronting Pearl. His fat shoulders and head were thrust back which showed his pot-belly to disadvantage. He and Pearl were in loud dispute, no he was the one shouting and she was listening, ominously quiet. The man stood, smugly satisfied that he had stopped the procession; he was into stopping. He stood encased in self-importance, so typical of the impeccably coiffed new generation of managers, turned out by colleges far removed from the demands of real life and real people.
Little Pearl was standing her ground in front of him, intense, courteous to a fault, but Rith knew she had not stopped being trouble. She could see it in the cleft in the little raised chin. Rith began to run again.
“Pearl! Pearl! Please stop this!”
Power wheel chairs began to close in on the CEO from every direction.
The CEO, backed off and spun round. Then he saw Rith and exploded.
“You are fired!” he spat out.
Rith blanched. She knew he was not going to change his mind; could not change his mind.
“And you, er you, you,” pointing at Pearl with his whole body shaking, “you, you little impudent snippet , you, you, right now, you get right off my campus! “
The man, he was the Man turned and stomped off.
The volunteers went into shock. This was something they hadn’t predicted and had not wanted. They had all loved Rith, each and every one of them. They began to disperse slowly, beginning to realize what they had done.. Rith watched them go, watched them all leaving her. They had been everything to her; they had been her life, for nearly a decade.
She turned around slowly, not quite sure where she was going to go, or what she would do.
Politics IOU will be up on Kindle at the beginning of February. Meanwhile you can read the story for free at www.ellabevan.com