Sunday, August 2, 2015

Easy Money

A Brazilian traveler had left her medication at home. Could I drive to Hermosa Beach and write some prescriptions? The caller was the guest’s travel insurer.

When hotel guests call directly, I tell them to go to a pharmacy and explain what they need. I would approve over the phone. It’s free; everyone is happy.

Before I could offer to do the same, the dispatcher informed me that, as a new policy, insurance would pay for visits to replace prescriptions. I could not turn down easy money.

It turned out not to be so easy. The traveler’s family doctor had faxed the prescriptions, but the writing was illegible and in Portuguese. There followed half an hour of debate, phone calls, and Google searches before I found the American equivalent of three of the four. The fourth never turned up, but it was probably an herbal remedy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Another Wee-Hour Call

It was midnight when the phone woke me. An Emirate flight attendant at the Hilton in Costa Mesa needed a doctor.

That Hilton is in Orange County, a 46 mile drive. The agency that serves airline crew has an Orange County doctor but calls me when she doesn’t respond.

After I’d dressed and filled out the necessary forms, the phone rang again. The Orange County doctor had checked in and wanted to make the visit. Was that OK?... 
I’d received a similar call last month when I was already on the freeway. At that time, when the agency announced that my visit was cancelled, I made a fuss, so it promised not to do that again.

Did I want to spend two hours driving plus twenty minutes delivering medical care in the middle of the night? I boast that, not having an office, I can sleep late, but I enjoy getting up early to write. In any case, my body automatically wakes at the same time.

Returning to my cozy bed seemed extremely attractive; I gave my consent.

As soon as I hung up, I remembered that the agency pays generously for long drives in the wee hours. That thought gave me a touch of insomnia, so I still passed a sleepy morning.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Trusting the Guest to Take Care of Things

A guest at the Crowne Plaza was feeling under the weather.

The guest spoke poor English but, through the bellman, asked if I took his insurance: April Assistance. I did, adding that, unless he wanted to pay me directly, he must call April and ask for a doctor. Then April calls me.

After giving April’s 800 number to the bellman who passed it on to the guest, I hung up and immediately regretted it. I should have asked for the guest’s insurance I.D. and then sent him to his room. Then I should have phoned April to tell them a client wanted a housecall. They would have phoned him and then approved. I’ve done this in the past; when I’m lazy and trust the guest to take care of things, I often never hear back.

I called an hour later, but the bellman didn’t remember the guest’s name.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sickness Makes You Sick

“Normally I wouldn’t bother you with this cough, but when I started to bring up green mucus I knew I had to do something…..”

Hotel guests tell me this regularly, and it’s wrong. Everyone’s respiratory tract makes a quart of mucus a day. When the respiratory tract is irritated, it makes more, and the mucus may turn yellow or green. In an otherwise healthy person, this has no ominous significance.

No one stares at their throat when they feel fine, and a sore throat always looks suspicious. Everyone knows that white spots on your tonsils is a sign of Strep that requires urgent attention. In fact, plenty of ordinary viral infections make tonsils look bad.

“The fever came back,” guests tell me as if this were a serious development. But Tylenol or aspirin only work for a few hours, and then you must take more. When patients tell me that they worry about a fever, my advice is “then don’t take your temperature.” They treat this as a joke, but the truth is that fever is just another symptom.

All bets are off if you suffer a life-threatening illness or serious immune deficiency or are extremely old or extremely young, but this is not the case with almost everyone I see. When people in good health get sick, they feel sick.

You should certainly contact your doctor if something worries you, but make your decision on going to the office on the basis of how bad you feel.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Luckless Americans

Ailing US airline crew are out of luck. Without transportation, they must travel to a clinic, present their insurance card, and hope for the best.

Foreign airlines do better, sending a doctor to care for crew when they lay over. In Los Angeles that’s often me. Being young, crews suffer common ailments. Even better, company rules forbid work if they have a cold, a digestive upset, or a minor injury.

On my own, I handle these over the phone, but airlines demand a doctor on the spot to confirm the ailment and name a date when the employee may fly again. I enjoy those visits. These patients are never demanding; their priority is getting home. They hate being stuck in a hotel room. Airlines permit them to return as passengers, and I’m liberal about allowing them, so those visits usually end happily for both of us.    

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Decline of Civilization

The desk clerk tried to hand back my parking slip, but I made no move to accept it.

“We are unable to validate,” she said. “It’s fifteen dollars. You pay at the cashier’s window.”

“As I explained, I’m the hotel doctor. They let me park.”

“Unfortunately, the hotel doesn’t own our parking service, so we have no control over the charges.”

“That’s true for most hotels, but they let me park.”

“Let me speak to my manager.”

It was a stretch to call myself that hotel’s doctor. The Mondrian was not a regular although I’d been there a dozen times over the years with no problem. Several minutes passed before the clerk returned.

“Regretfully, my manager says we’re unable to validate. The hotel doesn’t own our parking service, so we have no control over the charges.”

Not willing to hassle hotel staff, I took the slip. I’m not poor, but paying fifteen dollars at a fraction of my hotel visits per year, say a hundred, is serious money. This is happening more often.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Doctor Gets Sick

Years ago I suffered a stomach virus, not a serious illness but unpleasant. I was resting after a night of vomiting when the Beverly Garland called. I could have stalled or asked a colleague to make the visit, but symptoms were improving.

I had not entirely recovered, so my wife agreed to drive. As we approached the hotel, my nausea returned. It grew intense by the time the guest opened his door.

I remain proud of delivering an Academy Award-worthy performance, sitting quietly, focusing entirely on the guest, not hurrying, providing sympathy, advice, and medication as well as collecting my fee.

As soon as the door closed behind me, I dived into the nearest rest room and resumed vomiting. Several guests entered, saw my distress, and fled. But I got better. Most sick people get better.