The caller spoke with a Hispanic accent, so I assumed he was one my travel insurers, and I was right. It was Standby M.D., one of the good insurers. It phones; I make the visit; I fax an invoice; it sends a check for the amount I bill. Latin Americans make up most of my travel insurance patients.
A guest at the Sheraton Four Points had been awake all night with an earache. The call arrived at 4:30 a.m., but that’s almost my time of rising, so I was not unhappy. Freeway traffic was light. I was at his room in half an hour.
One thing seemed strange. His name sounded American, but this is not rare in Latin American countries. He also looked American and spoke flawless English. He told me his pain began soon after he boarded a plane in Managua.
“So you live in Nicaragua?” I asked.
“No. Vancouver,” he said.
The light dawned.
“Of course,” I added. “You’re Canadian. No American would have such good insurance.”
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.