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Uncovering the Underlying Root of a Complaint

Jun 04, 2018
A client took her elderly and very poorly dog to the vet with breathing difficulties and a bad cough. 

An injection of Frusimide was the first line of treatment. The vet was very apologetic to the client and explained they did not have the medication in injectable form as there had been an error in the stock control. 

His frustration and anger was very apparent which alarmed the client. Frusimide was given in tablet form but was vomited up within minutes, the client started to panic and the vet decided to keep the dog in the practice to calm down before administering the tablets again.

Another course of tablets were administered successfully however the dog started to deteriorate rapidly. The client was called back in, along with her son, who had grown up with the dog. The vet explained that the dog was dying of congestive heart failure and the medication was having no effect. A decision was made to put the dog to sleep.

There were two issues here for the client. The first was learning that an essential injection was not available in an emergency situation due to human error. The anger and frustration of the vet when the injection was not available had upset the client. This also meant the client felt the practice was incompetent due to the error in stock control, which in turn caused doubt in their mind about the overall care.

The last hours of the dog’s life were very traumatic for the family. I talked to the client about her experience and helped her to separate the feelings of deep grief and a need to blame the practice because the dog could not be saved. 

Through mediation, we explored her perception and communicated reassurance. The practice gave further explanation in that everything had been performed correctly and the delay in giving the tablet form of the drug made no difference in the final outcome. 

Mediation helped the client to realise how her grief was influencing her opinion of the care she received at the practice.

Initially the client came to the VCMS wanting a full refund of fees paid. We revisited this during the course of mediation as her anger diffused. 

After using compassionate questions to explore how her need for the refund was going to help, she explained that, within the family, the dog really was her son’s and he was leaving home having recently bought his dream cottage. He was all ready to move in with his dog the following weekend. The loss of the dog had devasted his dream of moving into the cottage. 

The client said she felt a sense of guilt at not being able to save the dog and her deep sadness for her son having to move in without his closest companion. Having identified this root cause of the complaint, I was able to move the complaint forward. 

I talked about the good times her son had with the dog and asked how he was going to be remembered to which she said the dog had been buried in her garden. I asked if there was something nice that the son could take with him to the cottage to help him remember his dog. The client liked the idea of a memorial plaque and so a proposal was made to the practice for a goodwill gesture to cover the cost of a small plaque. 

While clinically there was no justification for complaint, the practice was able to understand the underlying emotions to this complaint, and how the interaction regarding the medication supply had not been ideal. The practice willingly offered a £50 gesture of goodwill, to cover the cost of a plaque as an acknowledgement. 

Independent mediation for veterinary professionals and their clients