August 21, 2012

No Fair Go for Vets on TVNZ "Fair Go"

Our NZ Fair Go programme recently did a feature on the expensive pricing across vet clinics.

It was one sided and failed to adress most of the issues that the Veterianry Association discussed with them beforehand.

The advice they gave was misleading, in fact insulting.

As a result there has been a huge backlash.



Fair Go's segment on the cost of veterinary care last week elicited a passionate response. The popular consumer affairs show's Facebook page has been running hot with comments from both the veterinary profession and the public.

As a result, Fair Go is doing a follow up story, to be aired on Wednesday 22 August on TV1 from 7.30pm. Dr Seton Butler of Pet Doctors, Kelburn, was interviewed yesterday and Dr Wayne Ricketts, on behalf of the NZVA, has providedcomments for the presenters to read out.

Be heard. Have your say on Fair Go's Facebook page before tomorrow night's programme.

Based on a number of concerned calls from the public in recent times, on Wednesday 15 August, Fair Go looked into the variation in the cost of veterinary care across New Zealand practices.

  • Why is there such variation in cost for similar procedures and services?
  • Why isn't there a set of standard rates across all New Zealand practices?
  • Why does it seem that animal healthcare is so much more expensive than treating humans for the same ailments?
  • What can people do to save on veterinary costs?

Presenter Gordon Harcourt turned to the veterinary profession for an explanation and advice.

NZVA's Veterinary Resources Manager, Dr Wayne Ricketts, explained that veterinary fees take in factors such as where the practice is located, how many staff there are, and whether the practice has high tech machinery.

Vet Care Auckland's Dr Alex Melrose advised that pet owners struggling to meet costs for whatever reason should be up front with their veterinarian. "Be honest, be realistic about where you're at and what you can afford, so we might be able to find ways to safely 'cut corners' or look at reducing costs. Let's have these sensible discussions at the start".

Dr Ricketts adds, "Just ask what the worst case scenario is, what's that going to cost me?".

Presenter Gordon Harcourt reminded us all that the government subsidises the health care of people; it does not cover your pets. And for those thinking it would be cheaper across the ditch, think again - a basic teeth clean is even more expensive than it is here.

Wayne is the Veterinary Resources Manager at NZVA

He says: 

Fair Go did not give veterinarians a fair go when it glossed over the costs of veterinary care last week. NZVA, on behalf of its members, wishes to express its dissatisfaction about the predominantly one-sided presentation on the cost of veterinary services in New Zealand.

The NZVA (Veterinary Association) representatives provided Fair Go with considerable background material, most of which was ignored.

NZVA wishes to make the following points to ensure pet owners get the full picture and can then confidently make the choices that best fit them and their pets.

o Veterinary practices are not the same just like all stores (bikes, food, clothing) are not the same
o Just like any other business a veterinary practice sets it fees based on its unique business model
o There are budget models and comprehensive service models – this is a good thing, it offers the consumer choice
o There is NO subsidization of animal health – no ACC, public hospitals, drug subsidies (Pharmac) for pets
When someone sees a veterinarian they are getting real value for money – a veterinarian is also a generalist physician, surgeon, haemaologist, radiologist, sometimes chemotherapist
o Insurance for pets is very low (when compared with Britain for example )- NZVA argues this is because pet care in New Zealand is comparatively incredibly good value for money and pet owners are still able to pay for this from their tax paid earnings
o Increasing numbers of pet owners are demanding increasingly sophisticated treatment options for animals (digital xray, chemotherapy, joint replacements) – this gear has to be paid for in order to provide it, and expert staff are needed (they also expect to be fairly remunerated)
o And in case you think veterinarians are high earners think again – veterinary salaries plateau out at about $80-90k by the time veterinarians have been out of university five years (compare that to your average marketing manager, IT technician, or even registered nurse – most earn more than the person taking care of your loved pet)
o Price fixing is illegal in New Zealand under the Commerce Act
o Many owners consider value and quality first rather than cost
o If the cost issue outweighs the value of the care then by all means shop around but be careful that you are comparing the same procedures

So what can a pet owner do when he or she chooses to own an animal:

o Do your homework BEFORE you get the pet
o Get your pet regularly checked – early detection of disease will help prevent expensive veterinary bills down the track
o Consider pet insurance
o Select the best veterinary practice that meets your needs and budget
o Consider a savings plan
o Ask your veterinarian about a payment plan

And there is always the option of lobbying government. There is growing support and evidence that pet ownership is linked to increased health and wellbeing for the pet owner. Perhaps it is time for pet owners who cannot afford to own a pet to lobby for subsidies just as we have them for human health although beware –the money for that has to come from somewhere !


The original programme that aired can be seen here.

Posted via email from Four Paws and Whiskers

1 comment:

  1. I didn't see the original programme and as I'm away from home haven't had time to watch it on video even if I could (being outside NZ the link doesn't work - I have the same problem with BBC programmes when I'm in NZ).

    What I can say is that all the points made by the NZVA above are absolutely fair. It never ceases to amaze me how people think that what they pay for their health care is the whole and total cost. It always amazes me that some wealthy fee-earning people I know (who would be regarded by some as exorbitant chargers) are the first to gripe when it comes to paying for goods and services they want.


Comments welcome....always love to hear what you think!


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