Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I'm going to tackle a tough subject that comes up all too often, particularly these days with the current economic situation.

It's 2:16a.m., I receive a call that wakens me from my catnap stolen on the recliner in the faculty lounge. "We have a 6 week old puppy that got stepped on and has blood coming from its nose. What should we do?"

I ask the usual questions that I use primarily to get the owner to calm down a little and also to ascertain how bad of a situation we have. I advise the owner that the puppy should be seen then advise them of the emergency fee and payment policy. We are supposed to do this with every call unless they indicate the pet is actively dying and I have learned to do so anyway in order to save grief when clients arrive with no money.

"Do we have to pay it all now?"

How often do I get asked this question. "Yes, you do or if the pet stays in the hospital you would leave a deposit of half the high end of the estimate."


"Are you coming in?"

"I'll call you back."

Translation = No, not spending the money.

Why do people seem to believe that veterinarians should not charge for their services? "But I thought you loved animals!!!" Like any other professional, we deserve to be paid for the things that we do as well as the materials that we use. And how many other professions allow you not to pay up front? I've always wondered why people look at us differently in that aspect.

I should point out while I'm saying this that I tend to be one of the worst when it comes to letting things slide. I've been in trouble with my boss at every place that I have worked thus far for not charging for some things. I immensely dislike "nickle and diming" people. Really, you want me to charge for the 3 staples I used on that laceration separately? Yes, I know that realistically, it all adds up to a far larger sum than I realize but sometimes it just seems unfair.

One of the worst is when a very critical patient arrives and you still have to charge the ER fee just to euthanize. It's hard enough trying to get money from people when they have nothing much less from people whose pet you just killed.

And I know that one of the arguments is not to have pets if you haven't the money but I'm not sure that I consider that particularly fair either. I couldn't have pets right now if that were the rule 'cause I sure can't afford them. If I didn't have them, though, I would truly be pushed over the edge; they allow me to maintain what little sanity I have left.

Tonight, I got a call from a guy who has $100 total and his dog just did something to hurt its nose. Sounds like the dog will survive the night and I bluntly told him that he will be able to stretch that money farther by waiting until morning and seeing a local vet sans emergency fee. People have a hard time swallowing that information but I'm nothing if not honest. That then becomes difficult when people get angry saying you are refusing to see them and don't care about their pet. The bottom line is that in the situation I'm in currently, there's really nothing I can do about the financial policy and if I were to admit the pet to the hospital, they would just rack up a lot of cost which they cannot afford then get sent to collections. Unfortunately, they are usually too upset to see that I'm trying to make my best judgment call decision for their pet's welfare.

Sticky situations always seem to revolve around money. And they wonder why veterinarians seem to feel as if they don't deserve to get paid for their knowledge....

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