This week's episode of Grey's Anatomy delved into what could happen when you look at medicine as a corporate commodity, when you attempt to remove the human element and concentrate more on spreadsheets.
Dr. Alanna Cahill, physician advisor, stepped into her recommendations to increase efficiency at Seattle Grace/Mercy West. Following her controversial plan to close the Emergency Room, she also reorganized operating rooms, insisted on standardized procedures to minimize errors and litigation, and installed cameras in some surgical care units - behind which sat remote physicians.
Some of the surgical staff attempted to get on board with these changes so as to be spared loss of employment, while others set about fighting against the dehumanization of their workplace. Chief among those resisting these changes was Owen Hunt, who dismissed contractors sent to prep the ER for renovations and challenged Dr. Cahill to tell him what could be more important than frontline emergency medical care as they tended to a patient with multiple chainsaw injuries.
In a parallel arc, we found Cristina Yang battling the remote physician who challenged her treatment plan and in the process created stress for her patient and hindered her and her intern's ability to save lives. As an emergency cardiac patient arrived, we found Cristina and her intern battling other procedures in place when it was determined their patient was a Jehovah's Witness and could not receive blood products either to stabilize him or during needed surgery to repair a possible aortic transection.
Over the course of their complex cases, Owen and Cristina prioritized care for their patients and utilized to the best of their ability both their surgical and teaching skills. Owen urged Dr. Cahill to incorporate the magic of medicine into her critique of SGH/MW and its staff when she got caught up in their patient's carotid repair instead of attending to her day's worth of meetings. Transversely, Cristina cautioned her intern to rein in her zeal and concentrate on the tasks in front of her rather than assuming she had all the answers.
As the day drew to a close it was discovered that no amount of budget reorganization or pleas to save their ER would do the trick as it was made clear the intent wasn't simply to balance the hospital's budget, but to ready it for sale. Owen said a poignant goodbye to the ER into which he'd put so much effort and was joined by Cristina who asked him what he would do now. When Owen could only reply that in the short term he needed a drink, Cristina offered to buy the first round and they left work arm in arm, secure in each other's love and support.
Elsewhere in the hospital we saw Derek Shepherd and April Kepner plot to convince departments to spare small amounts from their budgets to save the ER; Callie Torres, Arizona Robbins, and Alex Karev struggled to motivate a dark and twisty teenaged patient; Miranda Bailey, Meredith Grey, and Richard Webber tried to perfect a recommended new hernia repair technique.