Beauty Shop Talk
I was raised Baptist and I don't know whether priests should marry. Maybe dating would be okay, if they went dutch. I don't claim to be an expert on religion. But I do think the main job of hospitals with or without church affiliations ought to be healing the sick, not making millionaires out of guys who go around the country buying them up and shutting them down.I've been trying to get help for my precious brother Jimmy Ed who, you may recall, got swept up in that porno sting. His boss down at the bottling plant signed the employees up for CHEAP-O HMO. But it's hard to get an appointment with a psychiatrist on the CHEAP-O list. They've only got two listed, and one's in jail and the other one's on the lam. Several years ago those same two doctors would have gladly locked Jimmy Ed up and thrown away the key. At least until his insurance ran out. Jimmy Ed's back on the Nyquil and old Doc Jones said we better get him into treatment. But, ever since those wheeler-dealers bought Axel Memorial and closed it down, people have to drive all the way to the hospital in Cleatus.I'd do anything for my brother so I loaded him in the back of the truck and made the hour-long trip. Once we got there, we discovered the psych unit at Uncharitable Medical Center, the for-profit hospital in Cleatus, had been closed in order to consolidate services in the massive chain.Sonny suggested we call Ruthless Rob, a former Axelite who has connections to the hospital business. But the receptionist at Cold-Blooded, Inc., said Rob cleaned out his desk a couple of weeks ago. Stockholders hold him responsible for the blitzkrieg that wreaked havoc on the hospital industry from coast to coast. Some say Rob's cut-throat policies drove his underlings to fudge on Medicare billings. It doesn't pay to cheat the feds.One would think Ruthless Rob (the nickname he once took so much pride in) would have learned something from being in town during the Psychotic Institute fiasco several years ago. It resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and jury awards, not to mention jail time for some greedy physicians and administrators.But Rob was ambitious.The boy wonder who rose from humble beginnings -- a mere lawyer at one time -- instituted a relentless slash-and-burn policy that would have put Gen. Sherman to shame.But then he met his Waterloo.Honchos at the few remaining not-for-profit hospitals in the area wonder if it's safe to come out of hiding. Is the threat really gone? Did anyone actually see their nemesis get melted, zapped or vaporized? Was a wooden stake used?I ran into Doc Jones, who used to treat the county's poor at Axel Memorial. "Have we really seen the last of Ruthless Rob?" I said. "Maybe I'm too jittery but I'm afraid he'll be back in another corporate incarnation -- kicking dogs, taking candy from toddlers, beating up grandmothers.""I'm pretty sure Rob's closed his last hospital," said the doctor. "I was with him at the end. I could swear I heard him whisper 'Rosebud.' "