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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Not About The Benjamins

I thought the title of today's blog was cool, though for my non-US readers I will probably have to explain it.  Here in America our money has portraits of previous Presidents on one side.  Each denomination has a different portrait, with Benjamin Franklin being on the $100 bill (even though he was never a President!  Being an important Founding Father is enough).  So when someone says "it's all about the Benjamins" they mean that it's all about the money.  Okay, caught up now?

When I went into work today there was a note for me to call one of my regular clients right away.  Apparently their shar-pei, Sally, had been hit by a car in the early morning and was taken to the local emergency clinic.  When I called and spoke to the owner she was crying and obviously having a hard time keeping herself calm.  Sally had dislocated one elbow and one hip, had a few very large lacerations, and had one eye with an unresponsive pupil.  Though she was alive the prognosis was very guarded. We talked through the case and I told her that right now the best thing was to follow the recommendations of the emergency clinic doctor.  I promised that I would call and check on Sally later that day.

A few hours later I touched base with the ER, talking to the doctor in charge of her case.  Sally was doing okay despite the extensive trauma, though the dislocations were a problem.  After talking to the doctor I called Sally's owner and went through the prognosis with her and reviewed what the other doctor had said.  Sally is her "mommy's" pride and she wanted to do everything she could to help.  At the same time she didn't have unlimited funds and didn't want her dog to suffer.  It was decided that she would allow the surgeon to anesthetize her dog and attempt to replace the dislocations without incisions (a "closed reduction") and if that wouldn't work she would euthanize Sally since she couldn't afford full surgery.

I was starting to look at packing up near closing time when I realized I hadn't heard back about Sally in around seven hours.  So I called and spoke to the doctor at the emergency clinic, learning that Sally had just come out of anesthesia and the surgeon was successful in fixing the dislocations (as well as repairing the lacerations).  I then called and spoke to Sally's owner, expressing my happiness at her condition and reviewing what would happen over the next few days.

That's when the owner said something that surprised me and prompted the topic for this blog.  She said that she sincerely appreciated my concern and repeated follow up since I wasn't making any money on the case.

I was quite taken aback!  It had never once occurred to me that this would or would not bring in any revenue.  I was just concerned about a regular patient and what her outcome might be.  I was also very sympathetic toward's the owner's worry and sorrow.  The idea of the case making money never entered my mind.

Of course I expressed this to Sally's owner, and she said that she knew that and could tell that I cared, which was why she kept coming back to me.  But as I talked to her I had to wonder how many people think like this about their vet.  It shouldn't have come as a surprise to me considering some of the comments and discussions I've seen on this very blog over the last four years.  Many people really do think that the vets are only concerned about the bottom line and how much they can charge a client.  When people see their bills many will come to the conclusion that the doctor is trying to pad the bill just to empty their wallet.

For most vets this simply isn't the case.  It costs money to run a business, especially a medical one.  Our education, equipment, and facilities don't come cheap, and I can promise you that most vets are firmly middle-class and aren't driving luxury vehicles.  We went into this field because we truthfully care about pets and their owners and we want to see the best medical care for them.  For better or worse, quality medical care costs money, and we do have to charge.  But to us the charges are simply what we have to do and we focus on the necessity of our services and products.  The money involved is almost incidental, yet we can't ignore it without going out of business.

I'm very glad that Sally's owner realized that my main concern was for her pet and family.  But I do wish that it had never been a thought in her mind, because that means she has considered it with other vets.

And yes, I will be calling to check on her when I get to work tomorrow.