Tuesday, February 1, 2011

322. Chinese New Year's Eve's discussion with intern - the economics of practice

Feb 2, 2011 Eve of Chinese New Year.

Old Silkie, 15 years, with two snow-white cataracts and fast-growing tumour on the neck area. Panting. The mum was much distressed. Teenaged daughter and dad were saddened. Euthanasia was the humane solution to stop the suffering and pain. It was Chinese New Year's eve and it was a joyous occasion but this had to be done.

I explained to intern Michelle (waiting for her A level results and getting to know much more about the practice of vet medicine) that a pyometra surgery could not be done for less than $1,000 - $2,000 if the surgery has lots of equipment as these assets need to be paid for. She had been impressed by one well equipped surgery in Singapore. In the end, the customer just would not want that vet to operate on her dog, due to economic reasons. I was charging $500 and that would be a lot of difference.

I don't know whether she understands. "If the surgery has a lot of clients, it will be possible to pay for more manpower," I said. "It has to charge higher fees too to pay for the expensive MRI scan equipment and others. Otherwise, there is no net profit at the end of the year and how is the owner going to earn a living? In reality, the owner may just lose the case to a more affordable vet, as in the case of pyometra in the Jack Russell you saw."


Feb 1, 2011
I visited an older vet to thank the vet for the oranges and bak kua present. The vet had just recovered from an illness. She explained to me her modus operandus when I told her that she should not reject big breeds neutering. A case from her had come to me. "No, I don't want to do it. Simple wounds and simple medical cases at the lowest cost will attract clients. I don't understand why vets would charge higher fees and get less cases."

This strategy was correct as most people prefer low fees. In Bishan, I used to see a general practitioner with a long queue compared to his competitor 4 doors away. Could be the former's low fees, I am sure.

I did not comment on her strategy as she was differentiating her services by not handling difficult surgery cases like neutering of big breed Golden Retriever or complicated ones like removal of stones in the dog's stomach. She just refers them to a big practice which calls itself the "... referral clinic" and whose staff from the Philippines run down her and others for not being so well equipped.

Besides being bad-mouthed by staff of referral clinics with their arrogant policies, if the vet charges low fees, it is hard to have sufficient savings to upgrade facilities and equipment as well as to pay staff. Many pet owners prefer to visit a "better-renovated" practice and pay a bit more as they enjoy the ambience and feel confident that the vet would do a better job. First impressions count.

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