Should Sleeping Vets Lie?

Should Sleeping Vets Lie?
a letter from Sian Hall
On Sunday evening (6th September) I awoke to my Ridgeback girl choking next to me on the bed in her sleep. She awoke still choking, then began gasping. She was clearly in great discomfort and distress, and for the next two hours she lay on the couch in the lounge gulping, and trying to swallow something in her throat.

Midland's resident Sian Hall's beautiful Camilla

Midland’s resident Sian Hall’s beautiful Camilla

I had immediately began to phone for a vet believing we had an emergency on our hands, and I phoned various vets and vet clinics ranging from Nottingham Road all the way down to Pietermaritzburg, all of which left a recorded message that emergencies should contact Hilton Veterinary Hospital. I phoned this clinic on every such occasion, and many times in between, but on each and every occasion received only a recorded message, or no answer.

Desperate, I phoned individual vets in the area. Only Dr Dave Gibbs answered, and immediately. He was ready to come out right away to assist, then another call tried to come through. It was Dr. Martin de Scally from the Hilton Vet Hospital in response to my previous attempts. He explained that the vet on duty at his clinic had been occupied with an emergency, and was not available at that time to answer the phone. He directed that I should take the dog into the Hospital if I were still worried. At 3 am the young vet on duty examined, and offered to X-ray my girl, but explained that a scope would need to wait until morning when Dr. De Scally came in. Fortunately the X-rays did not show up any hard matter in her throat.
I want to say a very Big Thank You to Dr. Dave Gibbs for offering immediate help. The SA Veterinary Council Code of Ethics states that that a vet should provide immediate assistance to an animal in an emergency situation, and to do this to the very best of their ability, to be compassionate to both animal and owner. He answered my call when no other vet in the entire area was apparently available to do so. Thanks also to Hilton Vet Hospital for their consistent emergency service 24 hours of every day of the week.
I would however, like to say how very precarious I think the veterinary emergency services are throughout the Midlands and Pietermaritzburg on weekend evenings when no other vets can be found except for Dr Dave Gibbs, and Hilton Vet Hospital. I would like to add to this short list Veterinary House Hospital who also offer a 24 hour, 7 day a week service with their own experienced vets on duty, and a fully equipped hospital. In my panic to contact a vet I omitted to call them.
Hilton Vet Hospital and Veterinary House Hospital (Pietermaritzburg) have taken on the After Hours Emergency Services for most other vets on this general area on weekends, and most especially on Sundays . To the best of my knowledge, they are the only two equipped clinics available to treat an emergency during this time.
Why do all the vet clinics I contacted refer Sunday emergencies to only Hilton Vet Hospital? If the phone messages left by the off-duty vet clinics are to be followed, then one vet at one vet clinic cannot possibly be expected to serve an entire region ranging from Nottingham Road, all the way down to Pietermaritzburg, and including that city.
Vets, it is hardly fair to expect one vet in Hilton to take on all your weekend emergencies, in addition to their own clients, covering an area of at least 60 km distant. Rather, more clinics in the Midlands-Pietermaritzburg area should take on after-hours responsibilities, and to organize among themselves fast and reliable care on the weekends. My understanding is that the Ethical Guidelines laid-down by the Veterinary Council of South Africa is for every vet surgeon, and veterinary practice to take emergency responsibilities for their own clients.
At the very least, off-duty clinics should consider adding Veterinary House Hospital in Pietermaritzburg to their answering service as an alternative, so that an emergency would have a better chance of being attended to directly. The present emergency care potential in this area does not exonerate vets from taking responsibility for their own client’s emergencies. There is a good chance that another vet may not be available to take on your client’s emergencies.
Vets Clinics Available on Weekends After Hours:
Veterinary House Hospital in Pietermaritzburg 033 342 4698; Hilton Veterinary Hospital 033 343 4602;
And if you cannot raise a vet at a clinic try Dr Dave Gibbs 084 250 5000