All businesses get complaints. Complaints to veterinarians are no exception.
After being in the veterinary profession for years, I've seen clients complain about a number of things. Their wait was too long, the receptionist was "rude", the shot hurt their cat more than last time, their bill was too high, their 20-year-old cat had treatment and died anyway. This is just to name a few. Other complaints may be that their hospitalized cat smells like urine or....the doctor didn't spend enough time talking to them. You name it and I've heard it.
There are a variety of types of complaints – customer service problems, facility problems, and medical care complaints.
What do you do if you think your veterinarian really screwed up? One is not perfect and mistakes can happen.
Here are a couple scenarios.
1. A 15-year-old cat comes in with a history of not eating
and vomiting for 5 days. The owners want to do everything. They are given an estimate for approximately $600.00 for 2 days of hospitalization and treatment. The cat is in the hospital for 4 days. Their bill is $892.00. At the end of the fourth day – the cat dies. The owner is very upset – their bill is over the estimate and they don't want to pay. Their cat died anyway and they don't have anything to show for their money.
2. A young cat is declawed
. The owners were instructed to use paper litter only and to keep an E-collar on the kitty for 5 days after surgery. The owners used regular litter and did not keep the E-collar on the cat because he didn't like it. The wounds got infected. The owner went to the emergency clinic where they treated the wounds and started the cat on antibiotics. The emergency, wound care, injection of antibiotics and pills to go home totaled $137.80. Who is to blame? Is it the veterinarian's fault? Who should pay?
To be honest – this is complicated. Complications occur in human medicine all the time. The physician does not wave costs because a complication occurred.
In my experience, most serious complaints occur due to money. That is what it comes down to. If everything was free and the outcome was still good and there was no clear "fault" – there would be no complaints. But because there is money involved – there is fault or there tries to be "fault". What can you do?
If you have a serious complaint with a veterinarian – talk to him or her first. Think carefully about what you want to say before you do. Consider both sides of the situation. Are you being reasonable? Did you follow instructions your veterinarian or veterinary clinic staff gave you at time of discharge? Make a list of concerns, questions and consider what outcome you want from the interaction. You may want them to pay the bill. You may just want to know they care and an apology. Think about what you want and will find acceptable. Communicate this.
If you are not satisfied – your next step could be to contact the Board of Veterinary Medicine in your state to file a formal complaint. You can find their numbers on the internet. You will most likely need to document in writing the complaint with any "proof" or written information (bills, notes, etc.). They will investigate and determine if the complaint is legitimate and course of action.
The Better Business Bureau is a good organization that can take customer complaints or concerns and determine if there is legitimacy to the claim. This is not good for medical complaints but can be good for customer service complaints. For more information, go to www.BBB.org.
Another option is to contact a lawyer. Find out your options for filing suit if you believe you have a legitimate claim.
Before you do this any of this, make sure you talk to the veterinarian first. They may help you resolve the issue before you go through the frustration and expense of a lawsuit or other additional actions. My Final Thoughts – What Should You Do if Your Veterinarian Screwed Up?
Talk to them. Before you do – think about what you want for an outcome.
What are your thoughts? Email me
!DisclaimerThe Politically Incorrect Vet is a columnist that regularly contributes to PetPlace.com. The goal is to add a balanced and alternative view of some controversial pet issues. As happens with all of us, veterinarians can't say what they really think without offending some clients. This commentary allows vets to say what they think and give you, the pet owner, the opportunity to consider another view. All opinions are those of the Politically Incorrect Vet and not the views of PetPlace.com and are not endorsed by PetPlace.com.