Private Health...

Year 1999 - Episode 6


Out of the kindness of their cold hearts, company management have allowed us contractors to join waged and salaried staff in being eligible (at a reasonably hefty premium, of course) to join the company Health Care Plan.

Sod that. I should get a DISCOUNT for all the work I've put their way. If it wasn't for me, the company wouldn't HAVE a health plan - or at least not one with such a comprehensive Personal Accident Insurance section anyway...

"But it's dirt cheap!" the PFY claims, "and it's got personal accident cover which gives you unlimited time in a private hospital."

"Where no doubt they give you chilli enemas until you manage to discharge yourself," I respond, all too familiar with how good 'good deals' really are.

"No, they've got pictures," he cries, completely taken in by the shiny brochures. "Just look!"

I have to admit the pictures do look impressive, with large stately hospital rooms, battalions of neatly uniformed staff and sumptuous TV-dinner banquets, but I've seen far too many computer brochures to be taken in by advertising.

"It's just advertising bumph," I remind the PFY. "None of it's true."

"It might be," he murmurs.

"It's one of the commandments of computing!" I cry. Never trust the brochure until you've had the covers off!"

"But how can we see what it's like if we don't sign up?"

"Sign up?" the Boss cries, roaring into the room. "You mean the Health Plan? I've been a member for years."

"But what are the hospitals like - have you been to one?"

"Can't say I have," the Boss replies, bending down to pick up the 19-inch flat screen monitor I've indicated is his. "But when I do, you'll be the fir..."

Halfway through his lift, I pop the paper bag that I'd been holding. In shock, the boss shoots to attention a little quicker than he has for a while. "Agh!" he cries, dropping the monitor and clutching his stomach tightly.

Oops.

Of course, the PFY and I take some time off work to see the Boss as he recovers from his hernia op. And do a bit of shopping. OK, and have a few lagers as well. And a ride on the London tour bus - but after that, we went straight there.

At the hospital, we find that my suspicions are unfounded - the place is a state of the art set-up, with remote monitoring that would put our network topology to shame.

We brown-nose an administrative type to get a quick tour of the place, exhibiting a professional interest in their CCPMS (Centralised Comprehensive Patient Monitoring System).

"Basically," the admin-type burbles as we depart the Boss's room, "the system allows all patients to be monitored by a central computer which, in the event of any problem, dispatches a doctor or nurse from a localised aid station."

"I see," I respond. "And what happens if the doctor and nurse are elsewhere playing doctors and nurses?"

After a withering look, the admin-type continues. "The software is aware of staff positions at all times. I assure you that your manager is completely safe from mishaps."

Bugger. We were hoping for a hernia relapse (or five) to get us a couple more office-hours visits to the, er, hospital.

"We have thousands of cables from all over the hospital which terminate in the comms room," a furry-toothed geek from the monitoring room informs us. "The wires deliver all the patient data we need into the master computer and all patient details are available on our touch-screen here."

"Really?" I say, touching the box showing the Boss's name.

"As you can see," the geek continues, "these two windows are camera views of your manager's room, 22b. This box charts his temperature, pulse and respiration, this one his brain wave pattern - all are fed along the 22b cable sets to here, which saves us the tremendous outlay of having to buy individual monitoring units for each... Oh dear!"

The Boss's window has suddenly turned crimson with the words 'CARDIAC CALLOUT'. As the geek and I look on, a team arrives, strips the Boss down and gives him a couple of doses from the kickstart machine.

"Well," the geek adds, mopping his brow "as you can see, the efficiency of our team is second to none."

"Yeah," the PFY says, replacing a screwdriver, "but some of that termination in there is crap. Don't worry, I gave the Boss's cableset a seeing-to and reterminated it..."

The silence, as they say, was deafening. The geek now knows that the Boss got his batteries charged for no good reason, and that given an inquiry, the hospital - and his pet project - wouldn't fare well. He looks at us desperately.

"A tenner a piece should be sufficient for a couple of beers," I say.

"Per day," the PFY adds.