I was awake at 7 a.m. writing this column when a woman from an airport hotel called with symptoms of a urine infection.
Being American, her first question was: do I accept her insurance. I explained that I didn’t, adding that there was an urgent care clinic a few miles away.
“I’d probably have to wait forever,” she said. “I have meetings this morning.”
“I’m definitely convenient,” I said.
“Do you bring the medicine?”
I wanted to finish writing and eat breakfast, so I told her I’d arrive at 9 a.m., thereby demonstrating that, despite my age, wisdom, and vast experience, I still do stupid things.
It’s a rule of hotel doctoring to go as soon as possible. Waiting guests often reconsider, so I knew what to expect when the hotel’s number popped up on caller ID at 8:30.
“I’m feeling better,” she lied. “I won’t need to see a doctor after all.”
“You won’t save much at the clinic,” I suggested. “They’ll charge extra for the urine test and extra for the culture, and you’ll have to find a pharmacy and pay for the prescription.”
“Oh, no! I’m feeling fine,” she insisted. “Thank you for your help.” She hung up.
When patients cancel, I often console myself if the illness seems likely to produce an unsatisfying encounter. Guests are often disappointed when I can’t cure their respiratory infection, but urine infections are easy to treat and produce dramatic improvement, so I hate to miss one.
About Mike Oppenheim
Doctor Oppenheim has been a hotel doctor in Los Angeles for thirty years. He has made about 15,000 visits. Authors contact: