Industry Update
Opinion Article 8 January 2019

Finding a Competent Doctor - The Life of a Hotel Doctor

By Mike Oppenheim, MD

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A three year-old at the Ramada was fussy and congested, but my exam was normal. She had a cold, I explained. It might last a few days, and staying in bed wouldn't make it go away quicker. The parents should encourage the child to drink, but it was OK if she didn't eat. They were already giving Tylenol for the fever, and that was fine. They should try to enjoy themselves.


"So she doesn't need anything," said the father. I assured him she didn't.

They thanked me as I left, but I was not fooled.

Understand their point of view. They were in a strange city on an expensive vacation, and their child was sick. Naturally, all fun was cancelled, and the doctor summoned fix things.

Had I written a prescription, I would be doing what a proper doctor does. They would have given the medicine and waited. Not giving "anything" meant that I considered the illness trivial. That was clearly wrong.

Mind you, I had carefully explained that the child would feel under the weather for several days. They had listened and nodded.

I intended to call in 24 hours, but the following morning their travel insurer phoned to say the parents were requesting another visit. I explained that that wasn't necessary. I would call.

"She's the same. The cough hasn't gone away," said the mother.

I repeated that this was to be expected. These illnesses last a few days. She thanked me for calling.

No one answered when I phoned the next day. The insurance agency dispatcher explained that the mother had called earlier to demand another visit, so he had sent her to an urgent care clinic.

The child had barely swallowed the first spoonful of Amoxicillin when she began to improve. By the following day she was fine, and the parents were congratulating themselves. Who knows what might have happened if they hadn't found a competent doctor?

Mike Oppenheim

In his regular column "The Life of a Hotel Doctor", Mike Oppenheim shares remarkable stories around visiting hotel guests as a doctor. When he began as a hotel doctor during the 1980s, only luxury hotels had a “house doctor,” usually a local practitioner who did it as a sideline. Nowadays, in a large city even the lowliest motel receives blandishments from a dozen individuals plus several agencies that send moonlighting doctors if they can find one.

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