|David met Jack for dinner at the restaurant that Jack had chosen, feeling slightly apprehensive. He hoped that Jack wasn’t going to go on too much about the San; it was all he ever heard from his father who still maintained a large financial interest in it and would be straight on the telephone if the quarterly reports weren’t healthy. But he had at least listened to David’s plans and given him the go-ahead to bring them into practice. David was feeling very pleased with himself indeed. His father’s approval meant a great deal after his rather shaky start as a medical student.|
He gave himself a mental shake and fixed a smile to his face as he saw his uncle sat at a far table. He reminded himself that although both sans still maintained close links, the financial aspects were now completely separate, so technically Jack couldn’t interfere with his plans even if he wanted to. David grinned at his speculation, what was there to worry about? He was certain Jack would be impressed.
Jack was not in the best of moods, his initial elation about the loans from the bank had been replaced by the ever-present anxiety about how he was going to repay them and he was still annoyed about not being able to contact Rix. He knew he should apologise and he hated to be in the wrong. Also, Joey was continually asking him to make his peace with Rix. She hated not being in touch with Dick and Mollie and the quarrel had upset her badly. He hadn’t reminded her that it had been her own tactless comment about the Bettany children being left with Jem and Madge that had, in her own words, put the tin lid on things.
He sighed over the menu and looked up to see David enter the restaurant. He came over, greeted Jack and sat down, immediately plunging into an anecdote about his training hospital.
It was not until they had finished their starters that Jack asked David if he had spoken to his cousin recently.
“I saw him about two weeks ago. We ran into Mary-Lou Trelawney and went out for a drink. As a matter of fact, I had lunch with her this afternoon. She’s a lovely girl.”
“Mmm. Your Aunt Jo asked me to call on her if I could, but I don’t think I’ll be able to fit it in. You’ll have to give her my regards. Do you know Rix’s address?”
“I’ve got it somewhere – he’s always at work though or out with those lot from – ." David hesitated. He had his faults, but he was loyal enough. “Have you tried St Thomas’s?”
“Yes – and I have to say, I wasn’t very happy at being spoken to by an incredibly rude consultant – Rayner I believe he was called. Practically threw me out of his office. If that’s the best the NHS can do I wonder how long it can continue. Ridiculous notion.” Jack complained, bitterly, “Making doctors work such long hours for such low wages. Totally unsustainable.”
“Mr Rayner? He is pretty fierce.” David said, ignoring most of this, having heard it all before. “He comes over to Guy’s once a week and yells at us. Typical surgeon. Rix seems to get on OK with him, though.”
“I can’t for the life of me think why he wants to continue in the NHS when the San can offer him so much more.” Jack muttered.
“It’s completely different these days,” David began, unwisely. “We specialise more. Rix hasn’t trained as a thoracic surgeon so why would he want to start again from the bottom in a sanatorium for lung diseases? Anyway, last time he and I discussed it he was still thinking of having a year or two in Africa or Asia with Médicins sans Frontières. He might come around to working in the San – not in Switzerland but with me…”
Jack looked horrified, “Médicins sans Frontières? What is this obsession with going miles away to dangerous places? Margot is exactly the same… And anyway, I may well change the direction of the San. TB isn’t over completely, despite these claims of latest miracle medicines. I still have my patients. But what I’ll do is focus more on cancer patients and more general illnesses.”
“Really?” David said, eagerly, although he was thinking privately that Jack still had TB patients precisely because he wasn’t treating them with the latest medicines. In his opinion, the Gornetz Platz was stuck in the past. “I’m changing the direction of the Welsh san too. In fact, I was going to write to you before I knew you were in London. I’ve got plans to expand and completely change the way it’s run. I’ve managed to recruit a few of the men I trained with and they’re really keen to start.”
“What are your plans?” Jack asked, instinctively feeling that he was not going to like them.
Well,” David began, “I’ve closed the TB wards, there was no point in keeping them open as we found we didn’t have any patients who couldn’t be treated with strong drugs. Haven’t you discovered that? I don’t know about you, but since we started using them, our success rate was nearly 100% - not counting the really hopeless cases of course. I’m going to concentrate on the administration myself and we’ll also start some training programmes for medical students – basically I’ve got a man looking into it and the NHS would pay us to give research places to some of their students. There’s a bloke I know called Sir Robert Welles and he’s interested in this, so that would be a definite income to replace the loss from the TB patients. But basically, I was thinking about it and discussing it with a few of the fellows from Guy’s and I thought – .”
“What?” Jack interrupted him. “Why have you closed your TB wards? Does your father know?”
“Of course he does – he agrees with me that we need to change our focus…”
“It seems a drastic step to me. What if these drugs don’t work?” Jack persisted, stubbornly.
David was confused. Was Jack serious? Didn’t he read the medical journals or latest research? TB was nearly wiped out now, except for the Third World.
“I want to turn the San into a children’s hospital. I’ve done some research and I think – “
“Fine.” Jack cut him off, abruptly. If Jem agreed with David’s plans then he didn’t care. He no longer had any financial interest in the Welsh san anyway and none of David’s ideas appealed to him as ones he could adapt for his own institution. Research and paediatrics didn’t sound very profitable to him and he could no longer be bothered with medical students. Jack wanted to recruit established doctors and surgeons, knowing he couldn’t give junior doctors the time he once was able to.
Why did you ask if you didn’t want to know? David thought, annoyed, pushing the food around on his plate. His Uncle Jack had once been a great ally, now he was becoming unbearable.
“How many TB cases do you have in Switzerland?” he asked, trying to keep his voice neutral.
Jack changed the subject abruptly, leaving David to correctly deduce that the answers was few, if any, and certainly no referrals from England as had happened in the past. For a moment, he felt sorry for his uncle, obviously he was finding it hard to adapt to a world without the white man’s plague that had been his life’s work to fight.
“A lot of thoracic specialists are moving into cardiology now,” he tried to hint. “I know a chap who used to specialise in TB and lung cancers who’s now doing really interesting research into treating congenital heart defects.”
“I thought about that,” Jack admitted, wondering if he could confide his money problems to David without the news being relayed to Jem. “But I want to develop a centre for cancer treatments. That’s part of the reason why I want Rix to join the San. I expect you know all about this from him.” He continued, frowning.
“He hasn’t said much to me,” David said, noncommittally.
“I offered him a job at the San – I expected he’d jump at the chance but apparently not. He said he wasn’t interested in working in private practice or in Switzerland. He was very vague why he wouldn’t. I offered him a lot of money.” Jack complained. “And reminded him that his first loyalty should be to the family.”
Oh not this again, thought David. “How much – do you mind me asking – did you offer him?” he asked.
Jack named a sum and David had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. Jack was years behind the times!
“I see. I think you’d need to offer a bit more than that – even though he’s in the NHS, he’s still a surgeon! He must get – let me think -” David named a very high figure indeed, much to Jack’s astonishment.
“I didn’t think the NHS paid that much.” he replied. “But I do think he could take a cut in salary to help me implement some changes in the San.”
“I have to dash off, Uncle Jack, but thanks for dinner.” David said, getting up, unable to take any more of Jack’s moaning. He also had a date with one of the nurses and her shift would be finished soon, “Safe journey back to the Platz and give Aunt Joey my love.”
Before Jack could say anything, he had gone, leaving Jack almost incandescent with anger.