Monday, May 23, 2016

When the General Manager Consults the Lawyer

The concierge expressed relief when I answered. A lady’s 11 year-old son was seriously ill, but the mother had refused to take him to an emergency room. She had been pestering the hotel staff all day.

“What’s the problem?” I asked. “You only had to phone me.”

I’d made over 300 visits to that hotel since the 1990s. But even as I spoke, I remembered that it hadn’t called in six months. As I feared, the concierge explained that a new general manager had decreed that, for liability reasons, sick guests would be directed to the local emergency room unless calling 911 was appropriate. Doctor referrals were forbidden.

At any given time, about twenty percent of Los Angeles hotels have this policy, but it’s never the same twenty percent. Hotels adopt and then discard this rule because it causes public relations problems. Most guests don’t require 911 and don’t want to go to an emergency room, so they stay in the hotel, sick and resentful. A few persistent guests make so much trouble that, as in this case, a desperate employee disobeys her boss. I’ve made a dozen such visits.

Calling me would have saved everyone trouble. The child had a fever and a bad cough, a routine viral infection. It was an easy visit.

Afterward, as I was commiserating with the concierge, my phone rang with an example of how things are done right. A man at the Langham in Pasadena wanted a doctor to check out his cold. I told him I’d arrive in 45 minutes.

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