tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)TOA PAYOH VETS

Date:   05 August, 2013  
Focus: Small animals - dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, turtles & rabbits
Continuing education in digital photography   
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
Date:   05 August, 2013 
Be Kind To Pets
Veterinary Education
Project 2010-0129

Sunday, August 4, 2013

1053. Sunday Jul 29, 2013 Interesting Cases: Abuse of veterinarian

Sunday, July 29, 2013

"I don't like your attitude," the man in his 30s, heavy built and has some tattoos in his left arm pointed his forefinger to within 10 cm of my spectacles. He shouted again. It was 11 am on this bright sunny Sunday morning. He came with his elder sister to view his dog that had passed away after 3 days of treatment. I had phoned him and texted him at 9 am to inform him that his dog had passed away. He phoned and said he would be coming.

At the Surgery, his sister had asked: "Why did the dog die? Is it because we sent the dog late for treatment?" 

"The dog is 9 years old," I said. "He is old. He is also very thin and had anaemia and kidney disease. His total white cell count had gone up a lot indicating a bacterial infection."

For this comment, the brother blasted me. On the day before, I was working and had checked on his sick dog. The rectal temperature had dropped to below 37.6 C. The dog had no appetite. I had phoned and texted him to let him know that his dog was seriously ill. He had come in the afternoon to see the dog.

As for me, I am aware of abuse of service personnel as there were many notices put up in the Singapore General Hospital warning clients to treat the service staff with respect. Some veterinary practices have such notices too. So, I did not engage him with replies to provoke him. It seemed he was ready to assault me giving his lack of anger management control. All he needed was provocation.

I said: "This dog is treated by Dr Daniel who will be working in the afternoon. He will talk to you as regards any queries on why your dog died."

The elder sister said: "Let the dog's death be peaceful. We will bring him to Pasir Ris to cremate. The next day, he texted wanting to speak to the vet who treated his dog. Dr Daniel spoke to him and said all was resolved. He had been very busy and had not sent the dog down for treatment for the past two weeks of vomiting. As for me, I had my man to "WhatsApp" the haematology results and comments to him and had phoned him on Saturday morning to let him know that his dog's health had deteriorated and blood test had shown kidney disease too. He denied I had told him about the kidney disease on Saturday morning.

From this experience, it is best to write down every communication with the owner in the medical records and blood test reports. Usually I ask my assistant to What's App the blood test to the owners and in this case, the attending vet was Dr Daniel and not me. I was covering his morning duties and so got the brunt of the anger.

Vomiting dogs might need prompt veterinary attention. I think of installing closed-circuit TV. Abuse of vets is rare but seem to be common in the last 5 years. This may have to do with the highly stressful lives of some Singaporeans. As for such cases, it is best not to provoke further with words. He had the hematology results in his handphone and he showed me. I had WhatsApp the results to him on Friday, but I did not WhatsApp the kidney results to him since I had spoken to him on Saturday morning by phone. I was not in the Surgery in the afternoon when he came to visit his dog as I was off       

In such cases, I should be hands off this case and leave it to the attending vet. Vets who are off-duty should be "on duty" to communicate with the clients whose dogs are ill but this is expecting too much of the younger or older generation who values "work-life" balance.

Last year, I was verbally abused by a client of Dr Vanessa and I had written about it in an article. In that situation, the son pulled the father away as the irate man kept shouting at me that I should pay him so that he can educate me about his dog case. There was something abnormal about the man as he was asking for a fight. I just kept quiet to prevent further provocation.

As the senior vet, I do participate in case consultation of the associate vets to uphold a consistent standard of performance and care at Toa Payoh Vets and verbal abuses by clients are very rare. I take such abuses are part of the diversity of human behaviour and so do not get upset over the unusual shouting. Maybe I should have some tattoos on my right arm. A fiery dragon perhaps.

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