Sunday Oct 3, 2011 is a very important day for Dr Jason Teo as he celebrated the opening of his own vet clinic and had asked me to join him at 12.30 pm.
So I worked in the morning trying to clear the cases as fast as possible.
Many clients had made black faces when Dr Vanessa took some time in certain case handling on Sundays. My target for waiting times to be less than 15 minutes/person on busy weekends. Singaporeans don't like to wait a long time to see the doctor or vet.
So, on this Sunday morning, I asked one client to enter the consultation room while she was doing some minor op in the Surgery Room.
The man and his tall son got his dog into the consultation room. I had not asked him whether he wanted Dr Vanessa before he entered the room. In the room, I asked him and he said he was waiting for Dr Vanessa. So, I asked him to wait a while. I asked the second client and she said the same. So I asked the 3rd client with the Shih Tzu eye ulcer to come into the room since she was seen by me earlier.
Soon, Dr Vanessa was free, after taking blood samples in a dog and I got her client into the room. But I noted that he was bad-mouthing Toa Payoh Vets as not having a process to the 2nd client. I asked him what did he mean after identifying myself as the Principal of the practice. He started shouting: "I don't care whether you are the Principal. Dr Vanessa is a very good vet. I came to see her. You want to know what's wrong? Pay me and I will tell you! I know Dr Thiru...Dr Vanessa is a very good vet!!!"
This was the first time I encountered a dog owner's rage. I did not pursue the matter and kept my temper. Something was wrong with his behaviour and I left him alone while I took the 3rd client and her dog to the Surgery room to check on the eye.
"What's wrong with him?" the 3rd client asked me. "Is it because I jump queue?"
"I don't know," I said. "He wanted Dr Vanessa to treat his dog and so he had to wait because she was treating another dog."
I thought all was over as the angry man was with Dr Vanessa.
Suddenly, he barged into the Surgery room and shouted at me: "Go to the back of the Surgery and I will tell you what's wrong with you!"
I remained cool. What was wrong with him? He was actually being abusive. I looked at him with sad eyes. At 61 years of age, I have learnt to stay cool in such a provocative situation. His son pulled him out from the room.
Later I spoke to Dr Vanessa. "What is your relationship to this client? He even started to barge into the Surgery room after the end of your consultation. He praised you a lot and at the same time he showed disrespect to me. There is something not right here!"
Dr Vanessa said she did not know. I reviewed his case. There were contributing elements of unhappiness in the management of his case by Dr Vanessa and I advised her accordingly.
Such outburst and uncontrolled anger from a mature man in his 50s is very rare. We have road rage and educational notices on public hospitals and the National Library against abusing the staff. I don't see the need for one in Toa Payoh Vets as this is a very rare thing in my 40 years of practice.
I guess if the vet works long enough, he will encounter at least one case of veterinarian rage.
I will monitor his case and if he continues to be abusive to any staff in Toa Payoh Vets, it is best he go to another vet for his dog treatment. In the handling of veterinarian rage, just do not provoke by shouting back at the abuser. Keep cool. There are always some other causes that initiate the rage.