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Case Study: Why Did Mediation Work?

Jun 13, 2019

In our latest blog post we detail how the VCMS and our mediation service assisted a both an owner and practice allowing clear lines of communication and resolution to the complaint. 

A rabbit (we will call him Oreo - according to rabbitpedia.com, the most popular name for bunnies in 2019!) was admitted for castration at 7½ months. The operation was uneventful and he was discharged at around 5.30pm. The owner noticed Oreo was dragging his back legs. The practice gave advice to return the animal if the owner was concerned or noticed any signs of deterioration but initially diagnosed these symptoms as related to the anesthetic. 

At 8pm the owner called the practice very concerned. They spoke with the ‘out of hours’ team who recommended they bring Oreo back in and advised the consult fee. The owner queried this as he had raised his concerns with the practice on discharge and that felt he should not incur ‘Out of Hours’ consult fees. At 9pm, the owner called again and decided to bring Oreo in for an examination. The rabbit was admitted, and at 1am the ‘out of hours’ practice called and diagnosed a fracture to the spine. It was agreed the rabbit would be euthanised. 

The owner sent a written complaint to the practice complaining that Oreo must have been injured while at the practice, and also was discharged with the injury. The owner requested compensation for the distress experienced by his family (the rabbit had been a birthday present for his son). The practice had responded to the complaint denying any injury and explained that this is a risk when rabbits are contained. The owner came into the practice to speak to the senior vet and was shown the hospital and recovery areas. The owner became anxious that Oreo had been injured or distressed by the other large animals also admitted into the area. 

When the complaint was referred to the VCMS, matters had escalated. The owner alleged a ‘cover up’ and dishonesty, in addition to feeling that the practice had not taken his complaint seriously. The first phase of mediation involved ensuring the owner’s concerns were acknowledged. The mediation process then allowed constructive communication between both parties, via the Resolution Manager. The practice was able to reassure the owner that the injury had not been caused by an accident in the practice, and explained the mechanics of the injury. 

The practice acknowledged the owner’s concerns regarding the discharge and were able to show the owner how seriously they had viewed the incident. The complaint was resolved by the practice making a goodwill gesture to reflect the owner’s concern that the injury could have been identified on discharge, and the rabbit would have been euthanised earlier that evening. 

The practice also reflected on the owner’s feedback that he was unaware that this type of injury was a risk in rabbits. They felt this should be included in the consent/risk discussion or information. The practice asked the owner to contribute to some changes to their information guide which they felt should now contain this risk. The owner felt that his concerns and feedback had been taken on board, and another owner would not experience the same situation. This was quality improvement and a learning culture in practice!

 


Why did mediation work? 

  • Empathy for both owner and practice which enabled them to see from each other’s perspective;
  • Both were emotionally involved in the circumstances of the complaint, which was a barrier to communication and resolution;
  • Without adjudication, the mediator was able to explore the complaint in a confidential and safe space and help to develop practical resolutions to meet the needs of both parties.

For more information on the VCMS and our mediation services, contact our teams via 0345 040 5834 or enquiries@vetmediation.co.uk or fill out our online complaint form.

Independent mediation for veterinary professionals and their clients