Sunday, October 4, 2009

Emergency treatment costs

I've taken four requests for help today on the branch emergency contact number. Three of these related to animals who were already registered at our clinic, which means that they are eligible to be seen by the vets who provide our subsidised out of hours cover. The fourth was a dog who'd never been seen at our clinic, so had to go to a commercial vet.
I keep banging on about registering with our clinic before an emergency happens if you are on a very low income (defined as being in receipt of state benefits, including working tax credit). The costs involved in getting these four animals treated show just why this is such an issue for us.
Two of the registered dogs had gastric problems, involving the owners in a £30 out of hours surcharge, plus the cost of drugs. One had a nasty wound which required surgery, at an all in cost to the owner of £200 (a struggle if you are on benefit, but not impossible).
The dog who went to the commercial vet had a similar wound which cost us £200 simply to get him seen and given antibiotics and pain relief and will probably cost another £200 (which the owner will be expected to pay) when he goes to the next available session at our own clinic.
If the commercial vet had stitched the wound we would be looking at about another £600, which simply is not a realistic proposition for us to pay.
It's all very well to say: "In that case, you ought to be running a subsidised out of hours service that will treat animals who haven't been pre-registered," because that would cost money we don't have, just as much as providing unlimited help via private vets does. (Because our service provider would charge us more for an unrestricted service).
Simple arithmetic demonstrates what I mean. The RSPCA overall gets roughly a million calls each year, which are either dealt with centrally or forwarded to the relevant branch. The National RSPCA's income is roughly £100 million and the combined branch income no more than another £50 million, making around £150 million available each year for everything we do.
Divide that £150 million by a million and you get an average of £150 available to deal with each call and you can see why we need to keep praying that a reasonable percentage of them won't need anything more than some advice.

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