Letter to the Editor

Vets did their job Open letter to Christine Kallikragas, Re Tiny Dog Fatally Mauled (September 1, Yukon News): I am sorry about the loss of your…

Vets did their job

Open letter to Christine Kallikragas,

Re Tiny Dog Fatally Mauled (September 1, Yukon News):

I am sorry about the loss of your dog and wish the circumstances were different.

We feel that we handled everything properly.

This is written to shed light on the morning of the emergency call from Kallikragas.

Unfortunately, your reporter didn’t bother to phone us. It probably would have been less sensational if she had.

Getting all the facts only matters in good journalism.

Once again, your one-sided story and (our records are always available to you and our clients) have affected us.

We have had to deal with numerous public calls wondering whether we have an after-hours emergency doctor at our clinic.

I have obtained the relevant records for that day.

According to the report, Action Answering Service received a call from Kallikragas at 6:55 a.m.

The operator had a difficult time because Kallikragas refused to give her name. At 7 a.m., the second operator came in for their shift to find the night operator still on the phone with Kallikragas.

“He was becoming quite frustrated and he was trying to get the client’s name and phone number, but the client was so hysterical and agitated that she was not coherent,” said the day-shift operator.

“He finally managed to get her two phone numbers, but she would not wait for the vet to call her back.”

Our on-call doctor (Dr. Ray) was called, and received the client’s cellphone number and a brief description of the problem.

Within a minute, Ray called the client’s cellphone, but was told the customer “was currently not available, please try later.”

He tried numerous times over the next few minutes, with the same result.

Kallikragas wouldn’t give her name to our answering service, so we could not check the number with the phone company either.

According to the answering service, a second call from Kallikragas’ angry boyfriend came seven minutes later (approximately 7:10 to 7:15 a.m.). He demanded to know why no one was at the vet clinic and why no one called him back.

The operator explained the clinic opened at 7:30 a.m. and that the employees and vet were probably already on the way there.

“The clients were angry, hysterical and frustrated,” said the operators. “They were not listening to us as we tried to explain to them that they needed to stay off the phone and wait for the vet to call them back.”

At approximately 7:18 a.m., another call came in on the Alpine Vet Clinic line from the same client asking for its on-call vet.

(The operator said they had already gone over to Alpine Vet Clinic, waiting for it to open).

The answering service called Ray again to report they had called back wondering why he didn’t call.

Ray said he had been trying to contact them, but couldn’t get through and would continue to try.

Then, Action called me as well. (I was Ray’s back up.)

After numerous attempts to call the client, Ray called Action to let it know he could not reach the client.

At the time, the client was on the line, so the operator connected them through a conference call.

Ray told Kallikragas he had called several times. She asked what number he had.

She told him it was the wrong number, then repeated the same number (a fact confirmed by Action’s operator).

The conference call took place around 7:20 a.m.

Repeatedly, Kalligragas screamed that her child was injured, so it took Ray a while to figure out if she needed to get to Whitehorse General Hospital or the vet clinic.

Ray told her that our other doctor was already on his way to the clinic, and that he would be there faster.

(They happen to live together, and Ray saw Dr. Kumar leave the house a few minutes earlier).

He also told Kalligragas the technician would be opening the clinic at 7:30 a.m. for surgery, and that she could administer first aid until the doctor arrived.

Kalligragas insisted Ray leave his house immediately.

The conference call tied up both Action Answering lines for almost 10 minutes.

Learning about the delay in response, I immediately called Action to get the client’s name and number.

Both telephone lines were busy (used for the conference call). I tried several times over the next few minutes to reach the answering service.

After almost 10 minutes, I called Northwestel to report the problem. In more than 12 years, I have never experienced having both Action’s numbers busy for such a long time, especially since they handle other types of emergencies as well (child/adult abuse, etc).

Their calls are usually brief and to the point.

Jerome at the Northwestel 611 telephone service answered.

I explained there was an emergency and that Action Answering Service’s numbers had been busy for almost 10 minutes.

I asked him to try, but he couldn’t get through.

I asked for a search of other unlisted numbers, but there weren’t any.

I then asked him to report the phone trouble, and he logged a priority for repair (so I could contact them for the client’s name and number).

I phoned the clinic. Our technician answered the phone. (She opened at 7:30 a.m. according to our alarm monitoring records.)

She said our clients had arrived, reporting the dog had no vital signs and couldn’t be revived.

I told her Kumar was coming to the clinic, and she reported the clients told her Ray refused to come in.

I explained that was because the other doctor had already left the apartment would arrive at the clinic faster.

Ray had worked at our clinic for almost a year (October 2004 through May 2005).

He then returned to Toronto to be with his family, working for a small clinic. In July, he returned to Whitehorse to help us for three months while another doctor took his national exams.

Ray calls Whitehorse his second home and was happy to return. He also volunteered for extra emergency calls during this three-month period. (Our on-call schedule is available at Action.)

He knows our routines well and responded immediately to the initial call from the answering service.

He didn’t come to the clinic because his colleague was en route.

Since the clinic opened in June 2004, we’ve had (without a single interruption) a veterinarian available on call 24 hours a day for the Yukon, NWT, Alaska, Northern BC, and sometimes as far away as Nunavut.

The clinic has never charged for this service, and our doctors have often spent considerable time in the middle of the night or on holidays giving advice to clients or nursing stations, trying to help animals in need.

There are fewer veterinarians willing to take on-call duty, especially when we face criticism and screaming from clients, and unfounded blame from the media.

Not long ago, this territory had no veterinarians, let alone one on call. Animals had to be transported to Juneau or Vancouver for treatment.

Yukon Veterinary Services closed down last year, unable to find replacement veterinarians; they had six to seven veterinarians and staff just a few months prior.

According to North American statistics, veterinarians (on average) last for seven years after graduation, and technicians last a little over four years.

In small towns, where there are no emergency clinics, we carry an extra load as we cover all the emergencies through the day and the night.

Having both of my parents being veterinarians, and being one myself for more than 20 years, I have experienced many emergency situations and know, very well, the high stress level of our profession.

However, recently I have noticed some clients are more difficult to deal with; they’re rude and insulting to our staff without ever giving them the opportunity to explain themselves.

As a colleague put it when we were discussing this incident, that’s why he refused to be on emergency call anymore.

I can’t say I blame him, and I don’t know how much longer this clinic will be able to find people willing to provide 24-hour on-call emergency service if they are being treated like that.

After all, our veterinarians and technicians can get a 9-5, Monday-to-Friday job in a bigger city and have weekends and holidays off, and not get roused at 2 a.m. with people screaming at them and having their name tarnished in the paper without ever giving their explanation of the events.

They are not appreciated.

A little more understanding and patience can go along way and it would be greatly appreciated

We are all sorry that we could not help the dog.

To our clients and public, please help respond to your emergency calls by doing the following:

1) Keep your conversation brief and to the point; please be considerate of others who may have an emergency as well. Relate the important information (your full name, telephone number — an alternate is always a good idea — your location, and the nature of the emergency — pet bleeding, seizuring, hit by car, choking — so we can advise you about initial first aid.

Your full name is needed to update your file, but, more importantly (and it happens often), under the stress of the situation we get a wrong telephone number from the client, and if we don’t have your name then we don’t have any way of checking with Northwestel or Bell for the correct number.

Your location is important because if your pet is not breathing and you live nearby, we may be available quicker than if we have to meet you at the clinic.

2)    Keep calm, and have only one person talking to the operator to avoid confusion and repetition.

3)    Once you call the answering service, please try to stay off the phone for the next five to 10 minutes so we can call you back.

Marina Alpeza, veterinarian, Copper Road Veterinary Clinic Ltd., Whitehorse.

Premier without honour

Open letter to Premier Dennis Fentie,

I, a former long-standing Yukoner, was reading the Yukon News on Friday and was shocked to see that, regardless of Todd Hardy’s request to delay the election date due to illness, you are calling an election for October 10th.

As Yukon premier, you sir, are supposed to be a man of honour.

People elected you to represent them and you are supposed to act responsibly on their behalf.

Calling the election before Hardy was out of the hospital was not honourable at all. It is totally unfair and taking advantage of an unfortunate situation.

You have dishonoured yourself, your party, and the whole of the Yukon. You should have respected Hardy’s wishes on the basis of equality alone. This is what living in a democracy is all about.

There are millions of people that would die to enjoy this privilege that you enjoy every day. Instead of honourable actions, you have tainted Yukon democracy.

The Yukon has a reputation of being friendly and inviting, and you have done just the opposite by capitalizing on Hardy’s illness to have an advantage come election day.

Are Yukoners going to stand for this?

Your actions are unfair, mean and wrong, not in the Yukon spirit you are suppose to represent at all.

The electorate should reconsider having you as their representative for you do not represent the honour the electorate deserves.

You should perform an act of atonement and publicly retract your decision. I’m sure you’d feel the same if the shoe were on the other foot.

Lucie Desaulniers

Fredericton, New Brunswick

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