(This is the fifteenth part of a short story which is entirely a work of fiction.)
During their weekly reviews, they saw the same trend continuing. Numbers kept dipping. At the beginning of the third month, however, the numbers were quite alarming. The nephrology department as a whole became loss-making. Patient satisfaction ratings remained about the same. Dr. Som and Manav were very nervous. They were losing the only opportunity they had to make this work. They had a meeting where they brainstormed how they could fix things. They rolled out a patient-referral scheme for patients. If an existing patient referred another patient, he or she would get a one time referral incentive. They also decided to roll back the drop in dialysis prices. This would help improve the profitability of the department.
Patients were very upset with the rollback of the dialysis price decrease. They argued with the staff that they were promised that the drop would be there for at least three months. Why this change, they questioned? The satisfaction numbers plummeted as a result of this. Dr. Som and Manav thought that if the hospital numbers cold be improved, they could explain that away.
At the end of the three month pilot, Dr. Som and Manav reviewed all the numbers in detail. The hospital numbers did not improve at all. The nephrology department’s revenues and profitability both went down even further. The reasons were unclear. The patient satisfaction numbers were also lower than before. They thought through the plan of action. Dr. Som told Manav that this kind of plan needed at least one year of piloting. Three months was too short. Manav could sense the desperation in his voice. A meeting was called with Vasudha to discuss the results of the pilot. Vasudha got the other members of the Administration team in as well. Manav presented the numbers and in his conclusion said that they should pilot this for one year because three months was too short for such a radical change.
The other members voiced their opposition to continuing the pilot any longer. Manav argued that news about the change in prices took time to spread and patients would get to know in some more time. One of the Administrators pointed out that if this was true, at least the patient satisfaction numbers should have shown an increase. Manav said patients would generally be cautious while giving too much good feedback too soon. They would wait to see if this was sustained. No one in the room seemed to agree. If anything, they argued, patients would give good feedback to ensure that the hospital kept the prices low.
Vasudha heard everyone out. Dr. Som was quiet throughout. Vasudha concluded the meeting saying she would discuss with Dr. Som and then decide by the next day.
That evening, Vasudha asked Sheshu just one question, “What would you do if you were in my place?”
Sheshu replied, “Continue the pilot for a year.”
“You’re not being truthful Sheshu. I know this project is close to your heart. But we need to be practical. I promise you we will revisit this in thee years when our financials are more stable. We’re just too shaky right now. I listened to you and despite my doubts, agreed to the pilot. But the numbers speak for themselves.”
“Ok, shelve it then.”
“Is it our decision?”
“Does it make a difference?”
“Yes, of course, it does.”
Sheshu was silent.
Vasudha sent an email to the team asking for the pilot to be rolled back and everything to move back to how it was three months back. She had to do what was right for the hospital. Despite loving Sheshu deeply, she had to decide based on what her duty as head of the hospital was. She needed to balance the multiple roles she played in her life. She needed to separate her personal life from her professional life, however difficult that may have been.