Municipal Government

Blue Collar Noir – A Hospital is No Place for Sick People

March 21, 2016
By Bill Hohlfeld 

Timothy Sheard

A Review of: Someone Has To Die by Timothy Sheard

New York, NY  When a problem with a patient’s medication at James Madison Hospital results in that patient’s death, someone must be held accountable. The powers-that-be at the Croesus Medical group are just fine with that person being dedicated nurse, Anna Luisa Rodriguez. The problem is, not one of the nurse’s friends or colleagues believes for a minute that the fault is hers.

Enter, Lenny Moss, housekeeping’s finest, shop steward and amateur detective.  Those who know Lenny, know that in order to get Anna Luisa off the hook, they must first get Lenny on the case. For those of readers who have read about Lenny’s exploits in the past, they will not be disappointed in this latest installment in the series. Newcomers to the series are in for a treat. The setting, characters and dialogue are so realistic, you feel as though you have walked down the halls of James Madison Hospital and met the folks who work there.

In addition to a well crafted and and tightly plotted mystery, something else spills off the pages of Mr. Sheard’s most recent novel. He brings to life the spirit of solidarity among workers that doesn’t need to be fostered by public relations consultants, communications
specialists or professional organizers. The fictional corporate run health care facility is all that’s necessary to highlight the way workers will, more often than not, come to one another’s aid when being unfairly railroaded by a management team whose only focus is profit. To watch members of different departments within the hospital share information, resources, and whatever other aid they can muster up, so that a fellow employee can maintain her family, dignity and reputation is a true joy. And, this reader comes away feeling as though he were part of that team, and so part of that process.

The book also demonstrates how a “bottom line” mentality when looking at efficient ways of delivering health care can often, albeit inadvertently, do more harm than good. In fact, one begins to wonder if patient care remains the primary concern in a for profit institution in the 21st century, and we are left to give serious thought to the question “ Is health care the right of all citizens, or is it simply within the realm of those who can afford it?” Questions about the danger of the over reliance on, and misuse of technology, are also raised. Finally, one begins to care deeply about the people on the front lines of health care services, and begin to feel their frustrations with a bureaucracy that, at least at times, seems much more like an adversary than a partner in the business of curing the sick.

While all these heady issues may seem a bit philosophical for a murder mystery, there is no need to worry. The process of absorbing the information is made painless by the completely recognizable characters, their voices, their foibles, (there is even an intimidated stool pigeon) their family ties and their very human needs. This is a book about people- working people, who when faced with a challenge, draw deep down on a reserve of strength and intelligence, that while they may not always be recognized for it, has always been there, and enables them to stay afloat amidst a rising tide comprised of social and economic waves of adversity.

March 20, 2016

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