Wednesday, April 24, 2013

1392. Talk update 2 - Challenges & joys of Dr Sing's career


1. As a government vet with the AVA for 8 years, there was job security, a housing and car loan. Half day on Saturdays. No need to work on Sundays and public holidays. I was welcome by the pig and chicken farmers as I did extension advisory work. Once a month, male vets including myself had to be present at the Jurong Abattoir where pigs and chickens were slaughtered.

So I had the "work-life" balance. I could change cars every 3 years.
But there was little chance of getting promotions and the salary increment was $50 per year. In other fields like the Ministry of Defence, the civil servants were getting better pay. Soon, my wife, being in management and in Information Technology, was paid more than me. I had a rare opportunity to become a racehorse vet and so I left the AVA for better remuneration (housing and car provided, salary and private practice for individual horse owners).  

2. As a racehorse vet for 8 years, I had to work on most weekends which were for horse-racing. I had to be on 24-hour call. Some vets had been kicked and killed by horses during treatmenbt and so there was this risk of injury to life. There would be the rare financial offers from horse owners to give a special injection so that their horses would win races. Corrupt racehorse vets who place bets will not work long at the Singapore Turf Club as there will be unhappy complaints from affected trainers or owners.

The above-mentioned veterinary earnings would not be available nowadays as the Club does not provide housing and car as well as private practice when the Singapore Totalisator Board took over in 1988. I was offered a fixed pay of $5,000 per month. So I left to build up my neglected dog and cat practice, Toa Payoh Vets started up in 1982. Employee vets were employed but they would not stay long. 

The joy of giving back to the racehorse community. Horse racing was in decline when the government took over. I was part of Dr Goh Keng Swee's task force to "reverse the decline" in racing. I decided to help the jockeys and trainers who were not being paid by the owners. This was a unique situation as I wrote to various top turf clubs and asked for their annual reports. It took a lot of time to summarise the findings as I was not a management person. One day a new magazine editor asked me to write about racehorses and I gave him my report. It was published with the graphics. The new Totalisator Board management was not too happy as I did not seek permission from them. However, I believed this magazine article was very useful. See images of my scanned article.  

3. Since 1990, I had been operating and managing Toa Payoh Vets. There were around 5 vet practices when I first started. Now there is intense competition as there are over 50 vet practices dealing with dogs and cats. The challenge is to sustain the profitability of the practice and not to lose money and go bankrupt. Price undercutting is done if the vet wants a large caseload but the net profits are low and there are insufficient earnings to buy new equipment or upgrade the practice.

Increasing high rentals are the trend in Singapore as there are few commercial shops for rent. The government disallowed vet clinics to be next to eating places, inside shopping malls and so there was less choice to rent. Still more ndew vet clinics are being opened as the vets do have funding from the parents. HDB shophouses now sell from $1.5 - 2.5 million and it is very difficult to buy one unless there is funding from families or from some sources. I am still renting the Toa Payoh Vets premises.

Succession planning
is never easy for small businesses like Toa Payoh Vets. Employee vets take the clientele with them when they start their own by text messages and direct phone calls. Children may not be interested or capable in taking over. Presently, I am mentoring Dr Daniel who graduated over a year ago to learn the finer aspects of veterinary medicine and surgery (Video of Dr Daniel).

Video of cat with chronic constipation operated by Dr Daniel.

Animal activism and animal welfare.  Animal activism has expanded in Singapore as young people are more caring towards animals.  Debarking of dogs and declawing of cats are deemed cruel by animal welfare activists. Some vets are against it and advised training and anti-anxiety drugs to stop non-barking dogs. Less than 5 cases per year are done by me. It is only done when the owner has no choice. It is either death by lethal injection or the surgery. The owner is usually very distressed by government policies and risk being evicted from the HDB flat or fined heavily.

The joy of giving back to the pet owner community.
As the younger generation is visual, I decided to produce educational videos from 2013. My first good video was of the baby boomers dancing. I hope you appreciate it. It takes 50X longer to produce videos but I have some good interns to help me.

Around 1977 when the internet was first introduced, I decided to publish educational articles to educate the pet owners and the vet students. The web pages used to be grey and white. I read about html and digital imaging by borrowing books and magazines from the public libraries. I needed to discipline myself to write one article a day and to post it to and my blog. Many pet owners appreciated the information.  It takes at least 2 hours to produce a case study article with images. The cases are at

Use the present script


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