Title: The CareTAKERS
Author: William T. Delamar
Genre: Contemporary Medical Fiction
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 1
The CareTAKERS is a contemporary novel based on a hospital administrator’s ethical, financial and political issues in an urban environment.
Doug Carpenter, a new administrator, the third in four years, at Eastern Medical College Hospital, fights hospital power politics and physician greed while trying to provide a good setting for patient care. This combative scene forms a constant barrier to a successful, smooth-running operation and creates a threat to Doug's own position, but that's not all. A patient commits suicide. A drunk anesthesiologist kills a mother during an emergency delivery. Several patients are victims of an “angel of death.” A patient is poisoned by an unscrupulous doctor. A union strike explodes. A female goon brutalizes two nurses. On top of all that, Doug's wife is injured in a terroristic attack instigated by the pro-union forces. This all happens in only a matter of weeks, challenging Doug’s every emotion, diplomatic expertise, morals and ethics.
William T. Delamar
Reviewed by Joseph Allen
5 Stars out of 5
An engaging, exciting story of intrigue in a fast-failing hospital
William T Delamar’s fast-paced and moving hospital novel, The CareTAKERS, is like the television world of sexy lovable Dr McDreamy and grouchy brilliant Gregory House – turned on its head. At Eastern Hospital, affiliated with Eastern Medical College, most of the physicians are greedy, uncaring, careless, bigoted, and many are incompetent. The head of anesthesiology manages to kill patients during alcoholic hazes in the operating room. Their characters border on satire, but there are no smiles intended. No matinee idols, not even close.
Fortunately the less visible folks at Eastern are the salvation of both the hospital and the down-and-out community that surrounds it. Doug Carpenter is the Hospital Administrator, very much a dog to be kicked at times, but also a moral person not to be crossed when push comes to shove. Throw in a sexy union organizer-stripper and several choric elderly ladies, and you suspect from the get-go that Eastern Hospital is either going to get saved or torn apart. No way to tell, for the most part.
Only a few weeks pass during the narrative – a landmark time for the hospital because of a pending State review and a plan to build a new hospital building even as the patient count declines. The unon organizer’s antics offer some eye-popping relief for a time, but then she opens the doors to the squalor and suffering of the community, which has a major effect on the outcome.
The plot is presented in a racial divide that will make some readers uncomfortable, and that may seem exaggerated to some readers – but it serves to let us know the Capulets from the Montagues, so to speak.
The book is a winner, which is not to say it does not have its flaws. The cast of characters is so large it seems like a Russian novel that might have benefitted from a bit of slimming down – only to avoid confusion. There are a couple of beastly stereotyped nurses’ aides who don’t add much. But the protagonists and antagonists are sharply drawn and very close to life. A bit slow at the vey beginning, it becomes a page-turner quickly.
William T. Delamar
By Joyce Zeller
4 Stars out of 5
Author Delamar's book is a fascinating account of hospital power politics and greedy ambition. Hospital administrator Doug Carpenter is struggling to bring Eastern Medical College out of a financial mess and into the 21st century and deal with cost overruns on a new building project. There's no doubt the author has an "up close and personal" understanding of the turf wars that go on when massive egos are involved but, when a hospital, with which most of us will know intimately sometime in our lives is the subject, it takes on a personal urgency. The book begins with Doug's early arrival at the office where he is greeted by the bomb squad. It seems a doctor has been storing a highly explosive chemical in dozens of glass jars in a fourth floor hallway. Events proceed non-stop with a "lost" patient in a wheelchair who has been left in a backroom overnight, rumors of patients dying prematurely, a union organizer creating uproar among the nurses, doctors fighting over fees, a teenage suicide, and on and on. Although I found the book entertaining, I couldn't give it five stars because there was little backstory on the characters. I wanted to know more about them so I could care about them. I felt the writer was more interested in the devious political maneuvers of the characters than he was about their humanity.
There should have been more tension or more danger so I could become more emotionally involved.
Doug pulled past the emergency room and swerved to miss a large police van with BOMB SQUAD written on the side. What the hell! It stuck half way out in the lane. He zipped into the parking garage and nosed into his space.
"Mr. Carpenter!" Bill Hanes, the safety officer, came running and huffing up the ramp, his fat face and bald head pointing like a warhead. "I had you paged. We've got a problem in the labs."
"Got anything to do with that bomb squad truck parked by Emergency?"
"Yes sir. The bomb squad is here." He took short side steps, dancing back toward the hospital as though to pull Doug with him.
"What the hell for?" Doug moved with him and Bill walked faster.
"Well, I…" his voice trailed away, "called them."
Doug ran to keep up with the big man.
"Why?" With everything else, what now? Was there a bomb threat?"
"No, sir. Maybe. Yes, sir. Dr. Snowden has stuff on the fourth floor that could blow up any minute and take the hospital with it. I mean the whole hospital."
He gestured with his arms, making a large circle, and Doug nearly ran into him.
"What stuff?" He followed him across the short stretch of lawn.
"Picric acid, and it's been there a long time, and you know what happens to that stuff when it gets old."
"No, I don't know. What happens?"
"It crystallizes, and that's when it's ready to explode. Anything will set it off and he's got big jars of it sitting in the hallway."
Bill gestured and jabbered, and Doug felt like an idiot chasing after him. He followed him through the side door of the main building, into the clinging hospital smells. He clanged up the metal stripped steps after him, not waiting for the elevator.
"How did you discover it? And why didn't you work it out with Snowden? Why call the bomb squad?" He strained to catch his breath. "And what does Snowden use it for if it's an explosive?"
"I don't know what he uses it for, but I picked up one of the bottles to tell him he couldn't store stuff on the hall floor when I saw the name on the label. I started to unscrew the cap, but then I saw the crystals. And you know what that stuff can do."
The big round man strained up the steps ahead of him like Humpty Dumpty. A wild goose chase to start the day? Was this guy's brain a wad of waste? But sometimes he was right. Snowden had been a pathologist forever. Certainly, he would know. He'd been chairperson of the labs for over twenty years without blowing up anything. Three more flights of clattering stairs. Gasping for breath, they burst out of the stairwell into the hallway to find Cliff Toliver, the Chief of Security, all five foot four of him, talking to Dr. Snowden. A police sergeant and two other officers, covered with body padding, stood listening.
Doug and Hanes stopped for a moment, perspiring and panting. Ben Snowden bent down, scooped a half-gallon glass container from the floor, tossed it in the air, then caught it with one hand.
One of the officers threw himself flat on the floor. The other officer and the sergeant backed against the wall.
"Idiots." Snowden tossed the container to the surprised sergeant who managed to clutch it to his chest. He stood, mouth open.
"I was using this stuff when you were in diapers."
The sergeant straightened up, his eyes like stones. He turned, handing the container to the officer standing next to him. The officer squatted and placed the container in a padded steel box. The other officer got up from the floor and stared at Snowden.
The sergeant turned to Snowden. "No disrespect intended, sir. You may be a doctor, sir, but you're a damn fool, sir." He looked at Bill. "Any more of this stuff? We've got seven containers."
"No sir. I've checked everywhere. That's all there is."
"You're sure? If there's more hidden away, I'll have the building evacuated."
"Sergeant, I'm Doug Carpenter, the administrator. Can you tell me what's going on?" Little martinet. He's not about to close down this hospital.
"There's not much to tell. We received a phone call from Mr. Hanes at 6:35. We proceeded here, arriving at 6:40, and found twenty-six half-gallon containers of what used to be picric acid and is now a highly explosive salt called lyddite. If all of this blew," he waved his hand at the steel boxes, "none of us would live to tell about it." He glared his contempt at Snowden.
The other two officers snapped a series of latches shut on the steel box.
"Doug, all these idiots have to do is add water to restore it. This is stupid." Snowden laughed, but he didn't look happy.
Doug turned to the sergeant. "What are you going to do with it?"
"We're going to take it out into the north rock quarry and detonate it."
Ben Snowden planted his fists on his hips, his mouth twisted to one side, white eyebrows raised in disbelief.
The sergeant kept his eyes off Snowden as though he didn't exist. "The point is, in its crystallized form it's explosive. If you'd like to come along and see what could have happened in this building, you'd be welcome."
Doug nodded. "No, thanks, but Bill, I think you should.”
"I'm going, too," snapped Dr. Snowden. "I want to see these toy soldiers blow up this harmless material. It might be enough to pop corn."
"Okay." Doug turned to Bill. "I'd like a complete report as soon as you return. Maybe you ought to go, too, Cliff."
Toliver was already moving to a hall phone to have a car brought around.
"Ben, give me a call later." The old man just distorted his face in disgust. Doug felt like apologizing for being in a hurry. He waited for the elevator to drone to the fourth floor. He had told Dr. Whyte he would meet him at seven. Doug looked at his watch – ten after. Whyte was not a man to be kept waiting. What the hell? Who was?