Commentary on nonprofits overlooks key issues for private veterinary practices.
In reference to the commentary “Nonprofit veterinary clinics do far more good than harm” from the December 2015 issue of dvm360: It is quite apparent that Dr. Michael Blackwell is paid a salary that is not dependent on how many paying clients come through his door. If he was not, he would have a totally different take on this situation. I know of several practices that have experienced significant financial harm when a nonprofit veterinary facility moved in. This means they had to fire associate veterinarians and makes the owners wonder why they entered the profession.
The most egregious statement is that nonprofits not be required to means-test clients. I have seen enough Mercedes Benz at low-cost clinics to sicken my stomach as I struggle to make ends meet. I work with a local rescue foundation and requested that attendees at the vaccination clinic be means-tested. They never asked me back.
I agree with Dr. Blackwell that we shouldn't trivialize these issues by saying, “If you don't have the money to own a pet, don't own one.” However, if you can only afford to properly care for one dog, do not own four. If I can't afford cable television, I don't get it.
Is it not enough that Internet pharmacies have decimated our drug sales and increased our unpaid workload, that drive-up spay-neuter clinics operate and run, that in-store vaccination clinics inject and leave the emergency care to the local established vets. One does not have to think too much to realize that those left in private practice have no option but to raise their prices on other procedures to make ends meet.
While I chose to practice in a rural area that substantially reduced my life-time income, I still provide services to a rescue group at a discount, and we have a small charity fund as well. I also try to treat pets within the owners' financial means; yes, I still splint broken limbs when appropriate.
Despite all this a wealthy individual has set up a nearby clinic and has undercut prices substantially. I have lost enough business that I am strongly considering closing my practice after more than 30 years.
I suggest Dr. Blackwell spend some time out in the real world and maybe his guiding principles won't look so rosy. I am just glad I am near the end of my career. I can no longer recommend that young people consider a career as a veterinarian. That is a sad comment on the state of the profession I so loved and sacrificed so much for.