(This is the eleventh part of a short story which is entirely a work of fiction.)
A week had passed by since the day Dr. Som had revealed his plans to Vasudha. Dr. Som got busy in his work. Vasudha was busy with her work. Dr. Som wondered at times what was happening? He was wondering why Vasudha had not mentioned the plan at all. He decided to wait for a few more days.
Another week passed. There was still no discussion. That evening, at the dinner table, Dr. Som asked Vasudha, “Did you get a chance to think about the plan I presented the other day?”
“I actually did go through the presentation again. It is a great plan.”
Dr. Som could sense that there was a ‘but’ coming.
“But, I don’t think this is the right time to implement this.”
“Why is that?”
“Look, Sheshu, we are barely breaking even now. Implementing something this radical could be very risky. Things could become very bad.”
“What are the risks?”
“Patients will like it. That is great. Doctors will get a high fixed salary. They might be ok with it. But what about the hospital? If our equipment does not make money, how do we recover the huge costs we incurred? If doctors are not incentivised to recommend that patients get the tests done, they could potentially send those patients to other hospitals to get the tests done.”
“Why would patients go elsewhere when they can get the tests done here?”
“What if a doctor tells his patients that the test is not done here? Or they say things like the test is cheaper elsewhere? Or they could also say that another place does it better?”
“Why would they do that?”
“Oh Sheshu, you are so impractical. The moment other hospitals get to know that the doctors here are not incentivised to get tests done, they will start offering them incentives to get them done there. Is this really that difficult to figure out?”
“I agree that this could be a problem. But this will only be in the short term. In the long term, patients will figure the truth out and then they would insist that they get the tests done here. Trust me on this. We might have to take a short term hit.”
“That is why I am saying that we cannot take a chance now. Do you think we can bear the impact of a short term hit?”
“Yes, of course we can, provided we are doing the right thing.”
“Sheshu, you don’t understand the financial implications. Please, please leave this to me. You please focus on the medical part of running the hospital and leave my responsibility to me.”
Sheshu could not understand what problem she could have. He did not say another word. He quietly finished his dinner and then went to bed. He could not sleep however. He thought about what Vasudha said. He tried to look at it from her point of view. He could not justify her stand however. He started thinking that all she cared for was money. How different she was from the girl he knew from about ten years back. They had met at a mutual family friend’s wedding. They started talking at the event and hit it off instantly. They dated for a while before realising that they were deeply in love. There was no resistance from the families. It was a very happy marriage. They shared similar interests and values. They were not the party-going type at all. They much rather spent time with their families, going on long walks and had a deep interest in spirituality.
Sheshu felt that the last three years of struggling with Narayana Hospital had taken its toll on Vasudha. She now desperately wanted to succeed financially. But was financial success the only measure of success? Wasn’t there more to life than money? These thoughts lulled him to sleep.