Visiting Disneyland, a couple's two year-old twins fell ill. The parents consulted the concierge, and a doctor who wasn't me duly arrived.
A week later, the family traveled to Hollywood to spend a few days before flying home.
A delightful perk of hotel doctoring is the "clearance to travel" visit. I tell guests to travel if they feel up to it, but some insurers demand another exam and written permission. That's where I came on the scene.
The children had recovered, and I wrote my consent. From the parents' description, they had suffered viral upper respiratory infections with cough, congestion, and general miseries. The hotel doctor had diagnosed: "otitis, tonsillitis, bronchitis, and mild pneumonia." He had given injections, handed over medication, and written prescriptions for antibiotics, cough medicine, and eardrops.
The parents showed me his invoices. The fee for one child totaled $495, for the other $390. The prescriptions came to over $100, so they paid nearly a thousand dollars for a single visit.
Now and then I see guests after they've seen another hotel doctor, and the resulting invoices often contain a string of itemized charges and a spectacular total.
Nothing I do in a hotel costs much. That doctor billed $30 for an injection; those I carry for common problems (vomiting, pain, allergy) cost less than a dollar a dose. A syringe costs a dime. He handed over small packets of pills at $20 apiece. I carry two dozen similar packets containing from three to eight pills. Each pill costs me between a nickel and a quarter. A bottle of cough medicine costs $1.50. A week's supply of antibiotics is usually less than $5.00. I pay about $3.00 for a bottle of antibiotic eye drops. Perhaps my most expensive drug is antibiotic ear drops at $8.00. Doctors charge $30 for a urinalysis, but the dipsticks they dunk in your urine come in bottles of 100 at $40.00. That's 40 cents a dipstick.
Over the phone, before departing for a hotel, I always announce my fee, ending with "and that includes everything." Medicine is a noble profession, and while I'm in favor of doctors earning a large income, it's beneath their dignity to pay obsessive attention to it. This might not be a majority opinion.
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: