Just like Medical Benefits

 

Itís the kidís fault.

None of this would have happened if he hadnít been so smart.

Who could have guessed I would get mine because of him?

I thought he was just some stupid street nigger. But he really is smart, too smart for his own good.

He was supposed to be stupid.

Of course, things looked bad before I got him.

All hell was breaking loose around here after the trustees decided they wanted to move the hospital up to Wayne.

Government limited Medicaid payments was the last straw.

How can you make a profit as a welfare hospital when you have other people telling you what you have to charge?

With no more fat upstairs, a ripple went through the hospital so that I had to start trimming the fat down here as well.

And thatís the rub.

I have kids to put through college, and I canít do it on the salary this hospital pays me.

Skimming the fat was the only way I could make a reasonable living.

Not that it was very obvious during the good times. No one was going to notice me skimming a few cents here or there.

Every purchasing agent who ever worked here did the same. It was a tradition. A fringe benefit I always thought came with the job Ė like medical insurance.

When upper management started tightening its belt, I felt the noose starting to tighten around my neck.

I started thinking that Iíd better cash in while there was something to get.

Sure, this was stupid. The bosses might have looked the other way in the flush times, but in times like these, I should have known they would look for a scapegoat.

But I had a plan to cover it.

A friend downtown at the probation office had hounded me for months about hiring one or two of his clients.

I put him off saying the last thing a hospital needed were junkies and pimps working here. Bad enough they used our Emergency Room like a motel, or clustered around the back door looking for an opportunity to rip off a drug shipment or mug someone leaving with a prescription.

They were the unfortunate by product of the hospitalís doing business in places like Paterson.

Once the government and insurance companies changed the rules, they became part of the excuse for the trustees to move to a wealthier neighborhood.

So when I began to feel the pinch, I decided I needed a scapegoat of my own and called my friend to send someone over.

But the big-eyed nigger who showed up didnít at all look like the junkies I saw hanging around outside.

This should have told me something. I should have called back for my friend to send another kid.

But what would I say to my friend: ďThis one doesnít look enough like a mass murderer?Ē

Besides, I figured if the kid was on probation, he would do for my purposes. A record was a record. I put him to work in the stock room and gave him responsibilities that would make it look as if he was the one ripping off the hospital not me.

But the kid caused trouble right away.

Almost from the first day, he came back to me pointing out discrepancies in the billing, how we were getting cheaper merchandise delivered than what we were being billed for.

Sure, I knew about it. That was the scam I had worked out with the supplier. We got cheap stuff, paid for the expensive stuff, and I got a percentage of the difference in cost.

I told the kid not to worry about it.

But he kept coming back to me, the list of items growing larger with each day, as if he was working undercover.

Okay, maybe it was only an accident that led him to mention some of this to my boss.

But alarm bells rang inside my head and I choked when I saw the trustee eyeing me.

I thought I would blame the kid.

But I kept thinking of that list the kid kept and knew I couldnít fire him without his telling all.

I decided I needed something stronger to pin on him so that it wouldnít simply be my word against his.

I decided to rip off a box of drugs from the pharmacy shipment, and make it look as if the boy had done it.

I sent the boy off to the other side of the hospital then went down into the secure stockroom.

I had my hand on the box when a flash light blinded me. The security guard, the trustee and the boy stepped out of hiding.

My friend says I wonít have to spend any time in jail.

But Iíll be coming to see him twice a week at the probation office.

And that stupid nigger?

Heís up at the new hospital. The trustees gave him my job.

 

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