Post 55 Arrogant Doctor comes a Cropper

‘Hello; you’re through to the Middleton Hospital, good morning.’ If Sarah had said that once, she had said it ten thousand times. She had been the senior telephonist at the hospital for many years. It was a job she loved, and she prided herself on her efficiency.

‘Get me Davies, will you,’ instructed the caller.

Surprised by the caller’s tone, Sarah paused before replying.

‘We have a couple of gentlemen in the hospital called Davies, which Mr Davies do you wish to contact?’

‘Davies on the medical unit.’

‘Oh you mean, Doctor Davies,’ Sarah replied, emphasising the word Doctor. She held the hospital’s senior physician in high regard.

‘Yes, Dr Davies, and be quick about it.’

The caller’s tone upset Sarah. ‘May I enquire who’s calling, please?’

‘My name’s irrelevant. Now hurry, will you? I’ve not got all day!’

It was Tuesday morning, and Sarah knew that Dr Chris Davies would be seeing patients in the Out-Patient Department and wouldn’t wish to be interrupted unnecessarily.

‘Perhaps you could tell me the nature of your call?’

‘No, I can’t; damn you. It’s confidential. Just put me through!’

Sarah was not accustomed to being spoken to in this fashion but remained professional. ‘Please hold the line, and I’ll see if he is available.’

She put the caller on hold, and then rang the clinic where Dr Davies took the call. The minute the line was cleared, she rang the clinic again where the consultant picked up the phone.

‘Hello, Dr Davies,’ she said, ‘this is Sarah from the switchboard.’

The consultant knew her well. She was a longstanding colleague in the hospital and had been a patient of his as well.

‘Hi Sarah, what can I do for you?’

‘I wonder if you would tell me whom it was that called you a moment or two ago.’

Dr Davies frowned; it was an unusual request.

‘Why do you want to know Sarah?’

‘Really to let you know that he’s the rudest man I’ve ever had to deal with, in all the years I’ve worked here.’

‘Oh dear, Sarah. I’m sorry if he upset you. His name is David Bartram-Smythe. He’s an applicant for the vacant consultant job we have in the Medical Department.’

‘Would that be the Dr Bartram-Smythe who worked here as a junior doctor a couple of years ago?’

‘Yes it would; do you remember him?’

‘I certainly do, and at the risk of speaking out of turn, may I say I hope he won’t be appointed.’

So do I, Dr Davies thought, though he held his words in check. ‘Thank you, Sarah,’ he said, ‘that’s useful feedback. I’ll bear it in mind.’

Later that week, Chris Davies and his consultant colleagues, amongst them Jim O’Connor and Frank Taylor, met to discuss the forthcoming appointment. Chris opened the meeting by relaying his conversation with Sarah. This surprised no-one. They all remembered Dr David Bartram-Smythe, or DBS as he was always called. Though academically brilliant, his time working at the Middleton had been a disaster. His superior demeanour, and his rude and dismissive attitude towards those he considered inferior had caused endless trouble. Several times he had been advised as to his behaviour, but it had made little difference. Everyone had been pleased when he left for a post at a prestigious London teaching hospital.

‘Our problem,’ Jim remarked ‘is that on paper, he’s a very strong candidate. He has an excellent CV. He has a higher degree, he’s done some important research, and his references have been written by some high-flying people, a couple of professors amongst them.’

‘That may be true,’ Frank replied, ‘but when he was here before, he caused endless trouble with his arrogance, his ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude and his rudeness to the nurses. If you remember, there were disputes about the duty roster and arguments about holidays. Worst still, he upset patients on numerous occasions. I don’t want him to return, especially as a permanent member of staff.’

‘I agree,’ Jim said. ‘This has always been a good hospital in which to work. It’s a friendly place, with a pleasant atmosphere. Most of the staff are local, they’re loyal, and everyone gets on well together. We’ve worked hard to build that reputation, we mustn’t risk destroying it.’

‘Then we must make sure he’s not appointed,’ Chris said. ‘I’ll find out who will be on the interview panel, and see what I can do.’

Dr Davies’ enquiries, however, left him more pessimistic than ever. There were to be seven members on the interviewing panel; a professor of medicine from London, representatives from the University and the Royal College, two lay members, one of them acting as chairman, and only two, Chris himself and the hospital’s chief executive, from the Middleton.

 Chris could envisage exactly what would happen. Bartram-Smythe would turn on the charm and sweet-talk the lay members, and then impress the academics with his research achievements. When it came to deciding on the appointment, they would lose the argument by five votes to two. At a stroke, the happy, sociable atmosphere that existed in the hospital, and particularly on the medical wards, would be destroyed.

Meanwhile, the matter was widely debated on the hospital’s grapevine, and it became obvious that the possibility of DBS returning was causing considerable disquiet. One of the ward sisters even said that he upset patients so much that she would leave if she had to work with him again.

Three candidates had been selected for an interview; DBS and two others, either of whom Dr Davies would have welcomed with open arms. But as the date of the appointment approached, he had a deep sense of foreboding. At the interview, he could stress to the other members of the panel, the need to maintain the pleasant atmosphere and harmony that existed within the hospital, but he knew that such a soft argument would count for naught with the majority of the panel.

The big day arrived, and as was usual, the candidates were to be interviewed in alphabetical order. DBS would be seen second.

The first candidate was called into the room. The interview lasted some 40 minutes, but at its conclusion, there was no sign of Dr Bartram-Smythe.

‘Obviously, he isn’t interested in the job.’ Chris Davies remarked, clearly hoping that his application could be dismissed, ‘I suggest that we proceed without him.’

But the chairman was having none of it. ‘He’s probably just been delayed by the traffic,’ he said. ‘We’ll see the third candidate next, and interview him later.’

When the third candidate had also been interviewed, and DBS still hadn’t arrived, Dr Davies, now beginning to feel slightly more optimistic, again suggested that his application be discounted. The chairman, however, asked that he be contacted, to determine his whereabouts.

 It was his wife who answered the phone.   ‘Oh dear,’ she said, ‘didn’t he let you know? He decided to withdraw his application.’

To Dr Davies’ great relief, the committee appointed the stronger of the two remaining candidates. He left the room with a huge smile on his face and immediately rang the switchboard, to contact his colleagues to tell them the good news. It happened to be Sarah, who was on duty.

‘Are the interviews over?’ she asked eagerly. ‘Did that dreadful man turn up?’

‘No, as it happened, he didn’t. But what made you ask that? Did you think that he might not attend?’

‘I just thought he might be put off by the rumours that are circulating about the Middleton being downgraded to a cottage hospital; you know, losing its maternity, paediatric and emergency departments, and so on.’

‘But that’s nonsense. There aren’t any such rumours. It’s the very opposite, in fact. We’ve been selected for development. Ten million is coming our way for a new pathology lab and x-ray department.’

‘Oh dear,’ Sarah said innocently, ‘I must have have misled the poor man. I bumped into him when he came to look round the hospital a couple of weeks ago. For some reason, he thought I was the hospital’s general manager. I’m very sorry, Dr Davies; I’ll make sure those rumours about becoming a cottage hospital go no further.’


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