Dog death prompts Bunbury vet to explain reasoning for after hours vet fee

Lack of options: Murdock passed away after his owner did not have $100 on a credit card to pay the after hours fee required by a Bunbury vet clinic. Picture: supplied

Lack of options: Murdock passed away after his owner did not have $100 on a credit card to pay the after hours fee required by a Bunbury vet clinic. Picture: supplied

We are a system under immense pressure at the moment and we're just doing our best to keep helping animals as best we can."

Dr Braden Collins

A BUNBURY vet clinic has been questioned over a lack of alternative options for those who do not have the means to pay for a $100 emergency after hours fee.

It was around 2am on February 22 when a Bunbury-resident, who asked not to be named, witnessed her "special friend" Murdock the dog, have a heart attack.

He had been unwell for two weeks and had frequently been seeing a vet at a Bunbury clinic.

In a panicked state, the resident told the Mail how shocked she was to call the after hours number for the clinic, only to hear "if you wish to make use of our after hours service, please enter your bank details for a deposit of $100".

"With Murdock in my arms struggling to breathe and no funds currently in my bank account - I just could not believe what I heard," she said.

"I had cash to pay the $100, but how many of us, especially our older generation, have money on their cards?

"Also when you are in an emergency situation and you're living on your own, how can you try and find your card and then put in details just so you can make use of the service?"

As 21-year-old Murdock deteriorated, the resident said "all she could do" was lay with him for 17 minutes before he took his last breath.

She questioned as to why vets "bothered" to have an after hours service that was inaccessible to some who required it.

"Vets are supposed to care for pets just like we do for humans, are they not?

"Out pets are like our children, so what would happen if you dialed 000 for a loved one, and the same scenario occurred?

"What then?"

Eaton and Bunbury Vet Clinic Veterinarian Dr Braden Collins said the clinic's predicted the fee to "upset some clients", after it was introduced a number of years ago.

"At this time, the Veterinary Surgeons Board of Western Australia removed the need for Vet clinics to provide 24 hours on call service, which was done so that single vet clinics in rural areas could give their vets a night or weekend off occasionally," Dr Collins said.

"We were experiencing a large number of phone calls at all hours of the day and night, which was having a massive impact on our staff, so we tracked numbers for several months and found only 21 per cent of phone calls we received actually resulted in an after hours consult.

"It got to the point where we needed to make some changes or the whole after hours system would collapse - we were all exhausted."

The clinics decided to implement the payment gateway which resulted in a significant decrease in non-emergent after hours calls.

In regards to clients without a debit or credit card, Dr Collins said the clinic could not at this stage develop an alternative system - noting how clients still needed a card for triage services that required pre payment.

"We have VetPay, Zip Pay and several other facilities for credit, so if clients can cover the initial $100 for the gateway there are ways we can help them.

"But if we didn't make these changes we would have needed to close our after hours service, so everyone would have been worse off.

"This would mean everyone would have to drive to Perth - which would ultimately cause suffering and cost lives.

"We are a system under immense pressure at the moment and we're just doing our best to keep helping animals as best we can."