Emergency Veterinary Hospitals Are Not Charity Clinics
I see this topic discussed all of the time about how the big bad mean Emergency Veterinary Clinic refused to treat a sick or injured pet for free or should allow the owners to pay on a monthly basis a little at a time. There are very few other topics that make me want to get up on a soap box and rant in the veterinary world but this is one of them.
It was an Emergency Veterinary Hospital that saved Davinia’s life after she was attacked. During the days and weeks of her recovery I witnessed some pretty horrible things from other people. There Davinia was needing one on one specialized care. In fact in the beginning she required every member of the staff to help and the estimates kept piling up and I just kept swiping my credit card. It wasn’t a question, it wasn’t a debate she needed emergency treatment and that was the end of the story. After letting me in the door they ran Davinia to the back room and started work on her. They saw it was a true emergency and went to work trying to help her. It took some time before they came out with the first estimate for me to sign – meaning they had started to treat her before asking for a single dollar. In the first few hours they did everything humanly possible to give Davinia a fighting chance and for that I am extremely grateful. Sure their prices were expensive but it was the day after Christmas and late at night but they were open and prepared to deal with anything. You don’t go to an emergency hospital or call your vet after hours if it isn’t an emergency.
Emergency hospitals need to be staffed with the best of the best veterinarians that can perform literal miracles on very sick animals. They have to be filled with staff 24 hours a day 365 days a year to assist the vet and ensure the well-being of all of the animals in their care. No, it is not cheap but you get the service you pay for.
There I was sitting in the lobby of the Veterinary Hospital waiting to be able to see Davinia and get an update on her condition from the Vet on duty and a family comes running in. The dog could barely take a breath and actually stopped breathing by the time the family handed the dog over to the staff begging them to save the dog. By then the dog had stopped breathing and so the staff they did their best to perform CPR and resuscitate the dog. While the family was waiting for news about their dog it came out that the dog had been having breathing problems for several days but they couldn’t really afford treatment so they waited. Well they waited too long and even though the Hospital used all of the latest technology they couldn’t save the dog. When the family heard that the dog was dead they walked out the door instead of speaking with the vet.
The receptionist tried to get them to discuss what they wanted to do for the dog but they walked out the door and basically said to throw away the dog and that they were not going to pay for any treatment the dog received while the staff that could have been caring for other critically ill or injured patients tried to bring their dog back to life. As the father was rounding up his family to walk out there door he said he wasn’t going to pay for a dead dog. The dog might still have died but they never gave the dog a fighting chance to pull through whatever it was that was going on. They waited too long and there was nothing that could be done. But it became the Veterinarian’s fault for not saving the dog and therefore they refused to pay.
Or what about the family that walks in with a very sick dog or cat and when the estimate comes out they say they can’t pay and can’t put it on their credit card and got denied Care Credit (it is basically a loan you can get through a company to help treat a sick person or pet). They tell the Emergency Hospital to treat the pet for free and they will pay a little at a time when they can. The family made the choice to go to the Emergency Hospital in the middle of the night and they knew it was going to be more expensive just to walk in the door and diagnose the sick animal. They should have spoken to family or friends before they walked in the door or tried to make arrangements while the animal was being diagnosed so that they could pay for treatment. Instead they tell the Vet to save the pet for free or kill it. So now it is up to the Veterinarian to make a gut wrenching decision. He or she knows that with their training and years of schooling that they can help or at least try to help but he can’t do it for free.
The decision is made and the next day the Emergency Hospital and Veterinarian find themselves in the paper or bashed across Social Media because they didn’t give free emergency care to the family and the pet is dead. People say that the Veterinarian should have provided care if he or she really cared about animals and not just money. Really? Someone comes into an Emergency Veterinary Hospital after hours with a critically ill animal and demands free treatment. They are not a charity and they do not have to do charity work though they likely do when it is something per-arranged and for local rescues or shelters and probably even any active K9 units in the area.
Why is it that people say that a Veterinarian is only in it for the money if they refuse treatment for lack of payment or lack of ability to pay?
Think about that for a minute!
This is the same person that probably helped 10 – 15 maybe more other animals that day. They did everything in their power to help each of their patients and then someone comes along and accuses them of being heartless. No actually they probably go home that night and cry because they could have helped but they can’t make their staff donate their time, or ask the electric company to chip in their part, or say sorry equipment provider I can’t make payment on the Ultrasound or X-Ray machine this month because we treated half of our patients for free (but used your equipment to diagnose many of them). The entire staff want to help you and help your pet but they need the resources to do so.
The solution? Get Pet Insurance or start a Savings Account for your pet specifically for emergencies. This way the next time there is an emergency the owners of the pet will not be running to social media or the newspaper to share their story of the of the big bad Emergency Veterinary Hospital they can share their story of how their Insurance really paid off or how everyone should have an emergency savings account.