Danielle, chief concierge of the Ritz-Carlton, called me when her allergies were acting up, but this wasn’t the reason. It was an awkward situation, she explained, but she hoped I’d understand. A guest has complained, I thought. I racked my brain to think who it might be.
If it were up to her, she added, I would be the Ritz-Carlton’s doctor no matter what. Unfortunately, other concierges were putting pressure on her. Another hotel doctor had approached, offering thirty dollars for every referral. She had brushed him off, but her colleagues objected. They reminded her that vendors who want a hotel’s business (limousine services, tours, florists, masseurs) routinely tip the concierges. Why should doctors be exempt?
Here’s a suggestion, she said. Why didn’t I simply match his offer?
I told her that I’m happy to provide free care to hotel staff, but it’s unethical for a doctor to pay for a referral. It’s also illegal. No problem, she assured me. I would still be the Ritz-Carlton’s doctor.
Danielle might continue to call, but I’m less certain about her colleagues.
This exchange reminded me that I hadn’t written the California Medical Board in a few years, so I sent off another letter complaining about other hotel doctors paying referral fees. I’ve sent several. The board is legally obligated to respond to every complaint, and it duly responded, assuring me that it was aware of the problem. It has never taken action, probably because the Medical Board gives priority to protecting patients from doctors. It shows less interest in protecting doctors from each other.