Sunday, August 15, 2010

VSEC Overland Park-Better Vet Care by Intimidation?

OK, so normally I just post stories about the dogs and their antics. I can't say I have never ranted on the blog, because I probably have and someone would point it out to me, but in general, I just blog about a dog. But I have been really bothered by a recent trip to the emergency vet. I traveled 1/2 an hour to Overland Park because VSEC has always been my e-clinic of choice, rather than 8 miles to the local e-clinic. It's been four years since I have required emergency clinic vet care, and last Sunday, I discovered just how much can change in four years. Four years ago, I was on the road to the CWCCA specialty in Kentucky, and Julie called me to say that my Graycie girl was in distress, and she took her to VSEC. Dr. Shara Grauberger was an absolute saint that night, and VSEC saved Graycie, and they let all her friends come visit her in the hospital until I could get home from Kentucky. Dr. Grauberger called me with updates, and even asked how I was doing. Other friends had similar good experiences with other VSEC vets, so they became my emergency clinic of choice, even across town.

Fast forward to last Sunday morning, when I needed a vet right away for Kane, I didn't hesitate to load him up and drive over to VSEC, because Dr. Becker and Dr. Wingert were unavailable. Hey, they are allowed to have a day off sometimes!

When I got to VSEC, reception was in no hurry to get us checked in, but since it wasn't crowded, it didn't take too long. We were led into the exam room, where the tech asked about the problem, Kane's history, etc. Kane was never put on the big, shiny exam table, not once. The tech reached for his leash and told me they were going to get vitals and a weight, and, oh, by the way, if they needed xrays, could I just consent to it now, or did I need to have a vet come in. Well, gee, if you think my dog warrants an xray, could I please hear that from the person who went to vet school and has a DVM behind his/her name? I think I'm paying enough to get that courtesy.

The tech nods, and tells me I can go back to the waiting room, they'll call me back again. huh? Isn't the vet going to come in and examine my dog? ? Oh, well, that's all done in the back. That makes me a bit uncomfortable, not knowing or talking to the vet who is going to be diagnosing and treating my dog. However, not wanting to put up a stink, I obediently walk back to the waiting room.

Several minutes later, a young (read: looks like a teenager) vet comes out and calls me back to the exam room. He says, in a very detached tone, that they want to take xrays, because Kane is very tense around his belly, and it's difficult to get a good feel. Mind you, my dog is not in the room, I have not seen him since they took him for weight and vitals. Since I had been out of town and found broken glass when I got home, and I felt seriously out of touch with what had caused Kane to be sick, I agreed to xrays without hesitation. I am dismissed to the waiting room once again.

Another session of waiting and the vet calls me back yet again to the exam room to describe the xrays to me. No glass, no foreign bodies. Kane is still nowhere to be found, and the vet proceeds to tell me that Kane is a bit dehydrated, he has a stress colitis, and they want to do IV fluids, keep him in intensive care, and I can move him to my vet in the morning. All to the tune of the estimated $1,200. I had already told this vet that my own vet was to call me back by noon, and I did not want to leave Kane any longer than I already had (3 days away to a show). When I asked if he could get subq fluids and I would bring him back if he needed more, the vet literally could not contain a laugh, and basically told me that I could kill my dog in a matter of an hour if I didn't do the IV fluids.

The thing that bothers me most of all is that the vet was turning on the scare tactics and trying to intimidate me. He told me that Kane had had two more "blow outs" in the back since we'd been there. Hmm, now Kane had not had to go since I came home to find his accident in the house at 2:30 am, and finally again at about 6am, not urgent or explosive, he just went when I took him outside. Of course, I still did not have my dog back, so I could not refute his statement that Kane had had two accidents. This is the dog who tore the baby gate out of the doorway trying to get to the door rather than potty in the house. I declined, asked for sub-q fluids and that if my vet did not contact me and Kane was still having trouble, I would bring him back. Well, that was the last I saw of the vet, he off-handedly told me they'd do the fluids and bring the dog out, all as he was half way through the doorway, not looking back.

When I finally saw Kane again, they had given him not 100 or 200 cc's of fluid, but 500 cc. Poor boy, he could hardly walk, and I thought it must be painful for such a short guy to carry around that much weight sagging all around his shoulders. Later, when we saw Dr. Becker, he was very displeased that Kane had received that much fluid. I checked out Kane's back side, and there was no evidence that he had had any such blowout as the vet described to me. I know my dogs, and I know what I would expect to see if there were two
My total for the morning was $368.00. Not exactly a happy day for the checkbook, but I didn't think it was out of line for a specialty clinic, for exam on a Sunday, xrays (2), fluids, antibiotics ($25 for 14 Flagyl-yikes). So I'm not complaining about the cost for the day, I'm complaining because I felt like if I was someone who had a precious pet and didn't have the resource of a great vet on-call for just such situations, I might have, no, I WOULD have felt intimidated and scared enough to sign over to the $1,200 overnight stay, and I thought that this vet tried to scare me and tell me I was going to kill my dog, all to make a few bucks. It was really telling how his attitude changed once I let him know I'd stick with sub-q fluids and go on to my own vet. I was obviously not going to help him with his "quota" and cheating him out of an extra $900 on the sales board. At least that's what it felt like.
When I paid my bill, I asked if the vet clinic was still independently owned. Well, surprise, surprise, it's now a national chain, and it sure felt like it. VSEC is now a BluePearl Veterinary Hospitals partner. It certainly is no longer a "we care about your pets first and foremost" hospital.
It's so disappointing to me, and I just wonder how many people have been intimidated into unnecessary care, and thousands of dollars out of their pocket, only because their dog chose the weekend to become ill.
After my experience, I started to do a little poking around, and I have found story after story that mirrors my own, with different illnesses, but all the same undertones of vets giving a horrible prognosis, and trying to intimidate people into additional services.
Shame on VSEC Overland Park for exploiting owners who love their pets. Sadly, there are some great doctors there, but because of this last experience, I just won't be able to trust going there again, since it seems there are multiple incidents where emergency and specialty docs have been putting the screws to owners to get them to spend money. Perhaps they have a quota put on them by corporate these days, who knows. The only thing I know is that I won't be returning to VSEC for services.
Whew, I feel much better now. Not so much better that I've changed my mind about writing a letter, but better. :-)


wendexx - WE \0/ said...

I've had similar (altho not as obvious) experiences with emergency care. I would certainly write that letter! And I would seriously consider reporting them to the better business bureau. Here in Bham, we have a TV station that does a weekly expose on such business practices. It's called "6 on your side." If you have a consumer advocacy outlet like that, I'd make use of it.

In all my years of pet ownership, no one has ever taken my dog out of the exam room like that and forbidden me access. It's hard to balance your suspicions with your concern for your pet in a moment like that.

I hope Kane had a quick and full recovery! Take care & God bless!

herekittykitty said...

I have worked for this clinic as a vet tech in the past, things there have changed a LOT over the past few years....expecially with them becoming corporate. I am not sure on the Dr. you you have a name? I can tell you this, while they don't have a quota these ARE specialty Dr.s and are going to recommend the BEST possible treatment of your pet, some general practive DVMs believe in a more conserative approach...mostly because they do understand the stressful economic times....and 75% of the can go conservative and your pet will be fine until the morning when you can see your regular vet. I will say this, VSEC has some of the best vet techs around...i know when i worked there, and alot of the same people are still there, that these girls...and guys...are very compassionate and will try to save you money whenever we can, such as fixing a broken toe nail on our own so that you don't have to see the vet at midnight and pay a $80+ bill for something so simple to fix. If you ever run into a problem, I would always recommend calling VSEC, they always have a Vet Tech who will get on the phone and ask what is wrong with your pet and give you a recommendation on what to do and if your pet needs to be seen right away or if it can wait till morning. So even though it has gone horribly corporate...keep in mind there are SOME great techs in the back that you may never see, but that are taking great care of your pet.

Sarah said...

Thanks "herekittykitty," but I'm not new to the visit to the vet game, and in the past VSEC was always fantastic. I'm not saying anything about the techs there, because I know they are fantastic.

But times change, and as I understand it, the vets (at least emergency) *are* being reviewed on the $$ they bring in. And I don't care how great doctors are, if they don't examine my dog WITH me present, that's just hokey and instills zero trust from me, and I won't ever allow that again.

Plus, just plain lying that my dog had had additional blowouts, um, I've cleaned corgi tushies many times after bad intestinal issues, and there was no sign of any trouble, or any signs of a cleanup on my dog. He'd only had bloody stool hours before, nothing since, and I was really only worried about the possibility that he'd ingested glass since I was out of town and arrived home to find broken glass in the house.

And when the additional blowouts weren't mentioned to me until AFTER I declined the expensive treatment, I don't buy it. And I think that's really unethical.

The attitude of the vet changed dramatically once I declined additional treatment, he basically told me if my dog died, it was on me. A vet clinic can have the best techs in the universe, but when the doctor who is supposed to be caring for my dog never even touches him in my presence, and flat out lies about my dog getting sick in the back, sorry, but I'll tell anyone and everyone about my experience, to save some other poor pet owner an experience with a very unethical vet. He does have a name, and strangely enough, when shared with others who have had a similar experience, his name popped up more than once.

This was a completely different experience than I've had there in years past, when I would drive hours if it meant Dr. Grauberger or other vets like her were taking care of my dogs...

Sarah said...
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Sarah said...

well, no idea how my comment posted several times! I guess blogger knew how enthusiastic it was! :-)

herekittykitty said...

I totally agree with you about what happened to you, and that should NOT have happened!! Based on what you have described him as I am guessing he is a newer vet that I have vaguely heard about, but I have never seen him personally (which is what makes me think he must be the new guy.) I will tell you this, Dr. Grauberger still works there, and she is a fantastic vet. I would strongly recommend letting management know about your experience, not only through a letter but I would actually call them as well, talk to Melissa Andrasik or Jeff Dennis. Whatever Dr. you saw shouldn't have treated you like that, and i do not blame you one bit for being very upset, I would be too. I think the best thing is to talk to management because they are going to be the ones who put a stop to it. Especially Dr. Jeff Dennis, he takes patient and client care very seriously. He is the one who will put the hammer down on things that aren't right. I would also let him know that you aren't the only one who has had this kind of treatment from this Dr. While I think that VSEC has greatly changed since it went corporate, and I am not happy with that change, hence of why I don't work there anymore, the only way to change how that Dr. treats people is going to be to let them know about it. When you are talking to management about your experience make sure you are very stern about how horribly inappropriate this Dr.'s treatment of you and your pet was. The reason I say this is that if they think they can please you just by saying "I'm sorry" it will most likely be dropped there. Because honestly, they are a large volume specialty practice that is expensive, they get their fair share of complaints. They need to be made aware of how serious your mistreatment was for them to really do anything about it. I would also bring up that you have been there in the past and had great experiences with Dr. Grauberger, because then they will also realize that you know what to expect from their practice, and that what you received from this Dr. was unacceptable. Trust me, in no way am I defending this practice or that Dr. I just wanted you to know, that the Dr. you saw that night shouldn't be a reflection on the techs, because they are wonderful. That Dr. really needs to get his priorities right because noone should be treated that way, I know the other ER Dr.s and none of them would ever do such a thing, while they recommend the best care they can give, they do not push it, and they especially are not going to make you feel horrible over waiting until morning for something as "non-emergent" as bloody diarrhea. You should have never been made to feel bad about your course of treatment with subq fluids and seeing your vet in the morning, that is precisely what I would have done.