Industry Update
Opinion Article17 July 2019

Getting Help, Part 2 - The Life of a Hotel Doctor

By Mike Oppenheim, MD

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My relations with other Los Angeles hotel doctors are civilized but not close. When I leave town there's only one colleague I trust to cover. Mostly this works out. I schedule my trips so they don't conflict with his.

When I'm in town I'm always available. That includes after bedtime, in the movies and restaurants, and during social events. It includes concerts and live theater, but I sit on the aisle, so I can hurry out when my phone buzzes. None of this bothers me greatly (my wife is another matter).

One event causes problems: baseball games. My brother has Dodger season tickets, and we attend a dozen times during the season. It's almost the only time we get together; I love it and don't want to be interrupted. I'm out of commission for about six hours, and occasionally my colleague can't cover.

I could continue to answer the phone, but crowd noise in the stadium makes conversation difficult. It also reveals that I'm having fun, and patients hate disturbing a doctor during his leisure time. My solution is to change my phone message to announce that I'm unavailable until (whatever time the game ends) and then turn off the phone. Genuine emergencies are rare in a hotel doctor's practice, and so far it's turned out all right.

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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