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Veterinary Forum December 2007 (Vol 24, No 12)

Editor's Note: A tale of two clinics

by Marie Rosenthal

    I was caring for my dad's dog Max, a 13-year-old, neutered miniature schnauzer, when he passed out. By the time I talked with the veterinarian who treats my weimaraners, Max seemed okay. The vet told me it was probably a cardiac or neurologic problem, but if Max seemed okay now, I could wait until normal business hours to have him checked out.

    Monday morning, I called Max's vet. I explained the problem and asked if they could squeeze me into the appointment book because it could be serious. The woman laughed at me. "Ha! Obviously, you've never been here before," she said. "I'll see what I can do." Click.

    About an hour later, she called: "Why did you call?" I told her. "I'll see what I can do." Click.

    Hours later, she let me know I could come in the next day at 1 pm.

    Max and I arrived at 12:45. The waiting room was crowded with barking dogs and nervous cats. But the chaos in the waiting room was nothing compared to behind the counter. They didn't know Max, even though he'd been a patient for 13 years. They couldn't find his "card" and didn't remember why I brought him.

    The actual visit went fine, even though Max got "snippy" when the veterinarian tried to palpate his abdomen. She confirmed what Bo's vet had said, but a heart murmur made her lean toward a cardiac cause. She recommended an ECG, blood work and radiography, but I had to leave Max because they were dealing with an emergency. I also had to leave a $100 deposit, even though I would be paying the full bill in 4 hours.

    When I picked up Max, the veterinarian told me that Max's heart was slightly enlarged, but we would have to wait for the test results for a diagnosis. I waited 15 minutes to pay the bill. The receipt listed my mother as the dog's owner, even though she was deceased. I asked the girl to change it to my father's name, but she didn't know how.

    It took 4 days to learn that the ECG was inconclusive, and Max would need a cardiology consultation.

    Around the same time, I sent an email to Bo's animal hospital and asked if I could bring him in for radiographs while we continued to sort out his Horner's syndrome. A receptionist called me that afternoon and told me I could drop him off that night (the boarding would be free) or bring him in at 6:30 the next morning.

    When we walked in the next day, his paperwork was ready. She told me how beautiful Bo is, and we talked for a few minutes about what would happen. "Don't worry," she said and took him from me. I was in and out in 10 minutes. No deposit.

    That afternoon, Bo's vet told me that the radiographs looked fine and recommended an ophthalmologist.

    So, this is a tale of two clinic experiences. Although both animals received good care, where would you want to take your pet? Health care is a funny business because it is about medicine, but it also is about service. We are clients, but we are also consumers. Clients want good care, and consumers remember good service.

    NEXT: FORUM Fast Stat (December 2007)
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