Industry Update
Opinion Article24 September 2019

All in a Day’s Work - The Life of a Hotel Doctor

By Mike Oppenheim, MD

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"She speaks Spanish. I'm not sure what's going on, but she needs a doctor."


The caller was the night manager at the Torrance Marriott. The hotel rarely calls, but I go regularly for crew of LAN, Chilean Airlines. An LAN crewperson who falls ill is supposed to call her supervisor who calls the central office who calls Federal Assist, a travel insurer, who calls Inn House Doctor, a national housecall agency who calls its answering service who then calls me. The guest hadn't followed the procedure. If I made a housecall at her request, getting paid would be a major hassle.

I phoned the answering service which had no idea what do. I phoned Federal Assist who insisted it wasn't responsible for arranging visits. I phoned the director of Inn House Doctor to alert him to the problem. Then I waited.

It was 5 a.m. It's dangerous to make these housecalls before official approval because it may never arrive. But the rush hour was not far off, and I couldn't resist. I jumped in my car and drove the twenty miles to the Marriott. The freeway moved smoothly, but two blocks before the hotel, barriers and police cars blocked traffic. A dead body had been found on the street. That I was a doctor making a housecall did not persuade the guard.

I parked and walked toward the hotel. A policeman hurried over as I passed the barrier, but he accepted my explanation and escorted me past the tent concealing the body.

The visit was easy, and official approval arrived while I was in the room. When I finished at 7:00, my sigalert revealed a solid red line of jammed freeway for my return. So I returned to my car, tilted the seat back, and went to sleep.

Mike Oppenheim

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