Two surgeons were talking in a London hospital over a cafetaria lunch.
Dr. Rob was staring intently at his soup bowl as if he hoped to find Nessie in it. “I hate this new performance based bonus system” he said.
“You mean NHS’s idea of giving us a bonus for every patient who doesn’t die on the operating table?? What’s not to like about it?”? Dr. Nife asked.? “Why, is your success rate low or something?”
Dr. Rob smiled.? “Not at all, these days practically nobody dies on my operating table.”
“What, not even the complicated cases?” asked Dave. “Your surgical skills must have improved, then!”
“Oh no, I don’t even operate on any of the complicated cases!? I just refer them to other hospitals!”
“Wouldn’t it look a little..” Dr. Nife paused, “awkward if you only operated on easy cases?? Plus, I think the bonuses are better if the surgery is complicated.”
“But the surgery is always complicated” Dr. Rob grinned.? “I have mastered the technique of making routine cases seem like really complicated ones.? Like, I can look at a scan and see suspicious lesions that no one else can. ”
Dr. Nife wished he had thought of all these things.? He was suddenly rather jealous of Dr. Rob.
“Seems to me you are doing quite well then”, he said.? “Why do you hate the new bonus system then?”
Dr. Rob suddenly looked very haggard.? “I met my nemesis yesterday.? The system hit back at me”, he said.
“Why, what happened?” asked Dr. Nife, sounding very concerned.? Secretly, though, he was a little pleased.
“Normally, I look at a patient and put them in three categories,” Dr. Rob said.? “High-bonus, medium bonus and low bonus.? The low bonus patients I refer to others.”
“But this patient who came in yesterday”, he continued, “was high bonus.? Middle aged but fit woman, the case itself seemed complicated but I knew it wasn’t, and I knew this patient’s history really well so it was an easy surgery.”
“Then, what was the problem?”, Dr. Nife asked, puzzled.
“Well, she was my ex-wife’s mother “, Dr. Rob said. “We don’t, you know, get along that well.”? He paused. “Oh, who am I kidding? I dislike her intensely. She made my marriage fall apart.”
Dr. Nife thought about this.? He was a fair man.? He was a surgeon and he also had a mother in law.? “You did say it was a complicated case”, he said.? “Nobody will blame you if the surgery didn’t go well.? Of course you will lose the bonus, but what’s a little sacrifice?”
Dr. Rob laughed bitterly into his soup. “That’s what I told myself”, he said, “all the way to the operating theater. But do you remember that boat I always wanted?? The bonus from this surgery would get me to the down payment.”
“So… you saved her?” Dr. Nife couldn’t believe it.? “You had her on the operating table…and then, you saved her.”
Dr. Rob nodded to his soup bowl. “I saved her,” he said gloomily.? He looked almost pleadingly at Dr. Nife, “I wanted that boat! I need a vacation.? I have been working so hard now, seeing hundreds more patients because of this new bonus system.”
Dr. Nife could empathize. He, too, badly needed a vacation.
“And today”, Dr. Rob said, now again talking to his soup, “the ex-wife called. She wanted to meet me.”
“She wants to thank you?”
“She does, but I’ve been behind on the alimony payments, and you can be sure she’ll bring that up.” Dr. Rob laughed bitterly.? “There is no gratitude left in this world.? Let’s hope she doesn’t find out about the boat, at least.”
Dr. Nife looked into his soup now.? “At length I realize, he said, the bitterness of life.” he quoted.? “Lewis Carroll wrote that.”
Dr. Rob nodded vigorously.? “Was he a surgeon?”