Saturday, July 6, 2013

“Culling of a Nation,” a short story by Phyllis Humby


“Six of your patients died last month Dr. Reener. What do you have to say to that?”
Dr. Reener, expecting this confrontation, replied in a clear voice. “Two more patients would have died if they hadn’t sought help at the hospital emergency ward.” Reener challenged the Chief of Staff with her own steely gaze.
Dr. Alister didn’t flinch. She wasn’t the flinching type. “I look forward to a better report next month,” she said. “You’ve been below quota for the past quarter.”
Dr. Reener closed her laptop and leaned back, resting her elbow on the arm of the chair. She covered the grim line of her mouth with her manicured hand.
“As for the rest of you, I have emailed your new quotas,” Dr. Alister went on. “All eyes are on us, people. Our community is the training ground. You have the highest incomes of any doctor in the country.”
She swept her blonde curls away from her face and locked her pale gray eyes on each of the twelve professionals seated at the oval conference table. “You are well paid for your contribution to society. If you keep wasting the government’s money on tests, blood work, and hospital care for senior citizens, there will be no money. Why do I need to constantly remind you of the HCLS mandate?”
Leaning forward, her hands resting flat on the smooth wood surface, Dr. Allister invaded the space of the newest member of the staff. Dr. Cantor paled, accentuating the freckles scattered across his boyish features. His childlike hand rested under his chin in an unsuccessful effort to control the tremor.
“Dr. Cantor, how many of your patients died last month?”
With his tongue glued to the roof of his mouth, and hands too shaky to support a glass of water, he sat mute.
“I will tell you how many Dr. Cantor. Three patients died under your care. Three patients. What do you have to say?”
 “I don’t have my p-patient roster t-to capacity yet. I’ve just st-started my p-p-practice.”
Dr. Allister’s cheeks flamed. “You ordered MRIs, CT scans, ultra-sounds, and x-rays.” Her hands flailed in agitation. “For senior citizens. People over seventy years of age, Dr Cantor. Seventy!” 
She slapped her hands on the table. The young man flinched, his freckles convulsing against the greenish cast of his skin. “Do you understand the HCLS - Health Care Limitations for Seniors? Next month I do not want one test done on anyone over seventy years of age. Not one test, Dr. Cantor, or your career will be very short lived. You are affecting our quota and the reputations of all the doctors in this room.”
Dr. Allister, her porcelain skin glowing, dabbed at the moisture collected on her upper lip and returned to the head of the table.  
“Let’s end this meeting on a good note. The Lakepoint Rest Home is closing at the end of the month. By this time next year, condos will surround the waterfront.” A smattering of applause followed her announcement. “That brings the total closure of senior facilities to four since we began our program.” More applause eased the tension out of the room.
Dr. Allister beamed. Her reprimand of Dr. Reener and the blunders of an inexperienced Dr. Cantor aside, she accepted the credit for a substantial turn around in the budget spending.
“Believe me – our efforts have not gone unnoticed. More daycare facilities are proposed for the work place. Not only will these daycares be at no cost to employees, there will be a bonus for every employee who has children. Of course, the stipulation being that the parent must be married. This is a proud time for all of us. Our government is doing everything in its power to restore balance and build a viable population base.”
The Chief of Staff looked at each of the twelve doctors in turn before adjourning the meeting. “We will lead the way. We cannot let our government down.”
Most of her staff nodded vigorously – they really were a good group. Only Reener and Cantor still looked shell-shocked.
“Doctors, after you leave the meeting, please check your emails for the new quota on births. You need to coach your young patients to begin their families early. Remind them of the dividends paid for each child. Do not forget the daycare facilities. Grandparents may not be available, but there is no reason a new parent has to stay home with a child. Everyone will work. Remember, their tax dollars pay your salaries.
“Now, each one of you, return to your office and take care of business. There are bonus cheques from HCLS on the credenza. Pick them up on your way out. Dr. Cantor, don’t bother looking for yours.
“I'll see all of you back here next month.” 

Phyllis Humby lives in rural Camlachie, Ontario, where she indulges in her passion for writing suspense/thriller novels. Her stories have appeared in Canada, The United States, and the UK. She writes a monthly opinion column, Up Close and Personal for First Monday magazine. Visit her blog, The Write Break here.  Culling of a Nation” has previously appeared in Commuterlit and in Indie Trigger - Short Stories, an anthology published by Simone Press in the UK .

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