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2010 Hospital of the Year-Specialty: A friendly giant
At first glance, Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls, N.J., seems like an intimidating behemoth of a building. Look inside, though, and you'll find an efficient layout and a helpful staff ready to provide top-notch care for pets.
From the outside, Red Bank Veterinary Hospital could be anything. Observers who don't notice the massive building's signage might think it was a nuclear research facility or large art gallery. The average onlooker probably wouldn't suspect that inside, doctors practice some of the Northeast's most advanced veterinary medicine.
Red Bank Veterinary Hospital began by accident. In the mid-1980s, Dr. Thomas Trotter, a general practitioner, needing to consult with a specialist on a difficult neurology case, remembered his classmate from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Anthony DeCarlo. They began chatting, and Dr. Trotter mentioned that he was looking for a practice of his own. Before long, the pair became business partners.
However, acclimating to their new space wasn't as easy as adjusting to one another. The doctors bought a small, failing practice in an 800-square-foot facility. "It was a hole in the wall," Dr. DeCarlo says. "But we were confident it would work out."
The doctors entered their partnership with two principles in mind: professionalism and accessibility. "We didn't want to be a pet food store or a collar store," Dr. DeCarlo says. Instead, the doctors focused on providing top-quality medicine and hired enough team members to successfully run a 24-hour practice. "Our availability is what really got us going," he says.
TIME FOR AN UPGRADE
The building's size constraints eventually wore on the doctors. "At the time, we thought it was great, but when you really think about it, it didn't meet our growing needs," Dr. DeCarlo says. After a two-year search, the doctors found a new, larger building that suited them better. As a bonus, potential employees were drawn to the new facility. "It made it a little easier to hire people," Dr. DeCarlo says.
A look at the numbers
As is the case with many veterinary hospitals, the team quickly outgrew the facility. They expanded the building but found that even that didn't solve their problems. They needed a newer, even larger hospital. The task of building such a monumental structure was daunting, but Drs. DeCarlo and Trotter were up to the challenge.
"To get this project off the ground, it really came down to one thing: We had to have the nerve to do it," Dr. DeCarlo says. "We couldn't be afraid to fail." The doctors also made sure the building was efficient for team members and clients. "We designed it around the way we wanted the hospital to function," he says.
When moving day came, team members returned that kindness. "A lot of people worked a lot of hard hours," Dr. DeCarlo says. "Everything went perfectly. It still amazes me today."
The doctors' planning helped with the transition. Step one of the moving process was transferring materials the staff wouldn't need while still operating out of the old facility. On the day of the move, the team moved one truckload containing the bulk of the practice's supplies. The last phase was delivering the remaining equipment once the team was settled in.
DISPELLING THE MYTHS
Amazingly, Red Bank Veterinary Hospital is already beginning to outgrow the new facility. "Day one, this place looked like another universe," Dr. DeCarlo says. "Now it seems small."
Clients may disagree, though. From the beginning, the Red Bank team has had to address client concerns about the kind of attention their pets would receive in such a large hospital.
"Some people said, 'You're getting too big,'" Dr. DeCarlo says. "But we have the same people we've always had working here. If you look at the prices, we're not that much more expensive than anywhere else, especially since we work on really sick animals that require additional diagnostics. These perceptions have been our biggest obstacle since we opened.
"People who really care about veterinary medicine come here," Dr. DeCarlo says. "Based on how we've grown, people seem to like us."