CKNW 980 – The Jill Bennett Show: Interview with Dr. Geoffrey Hutchison
Intro: You’re listening to the Jill Bennett Show on 980 CKNW.
Jill B.: Well, if you are an animal lover, if you have pets in your family, you might know this, but you might not either. Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty Hospital, it’s located in Langley, BC. And it is one of two hospitals for animals that has received a certain level of certification in Canada.
And joining me to talk more about this hospital is Dr. Geoffrey Hutchinson, board-certified veterinary surgeon. Also a co-owner of the Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital. Thanks so much for being with us.
Dr. Hutchinson: Oh, thank you for having me on. Good afternoon.
Jill B.: Good afternoon. What makes it special about having the certification? What is the importance of having it?
Dr. Hutchinson: The reason that we worked so hard to get the certification is that it helps to identify the level of care that we have to provide a team approach to emergency medicine, but also specialty medicine for patients.
And so the VECCS certification goes through the facility and make sure that we have the specialty equipment we need. But also assures that we have board-certified criticalists on staff and that we meet an exacting standard. We’re really proud to have done that.
Jill B.: So does that mean that for this specialty hospital, is it for special cases or different type cases? Not things that somebody would take their pet to, say a regular checkup or to a regular veterinary place?
Dr. Hutchinson: Yes. Typically, what we specialize in are the difficult cases. So we expect that most cases for routine, we don’t do routine care at this hospital at all, even just basic emergencies, a lot of the time we’re not seeing those.
What we’re seeing are the cases that are really having difficulty with breathing, that have cardiac disease. That have a surgical problem. That can’t urinate, that have an intoxication, things of that level. And our 24-hour emergency and critical care staff are trained and experienced, and tooled to handle that. And then what we have is a group of board-certified specialists in different specialties, including cardiology and surgery and neurology, to be able to treat those patients all the way through to hopefully get a good outcome.
Jill B.: And are you seeing an increase in the number of animals that are in need of that type of care? Or do you think because there’s now a facility like this that can offer that care, we’re seeing the increase?
Dr. Hutchinson: I think a little bit of both. I think over the last, we started the specialty hospital over ten years ago, and we’ve seen a steady growth year to year as we’ve grown with specialties. We’ve been 24 hours now for three years, and we’ve had a board-certified criticalist for most of that time.
And since then, we’ve seen even more intense cases come. And so I think part of it is as we’ve built it and provided it, people expect it and understand that it’s there and demand it for their patients.
And I think over the last even two decades in veterinary medicine, people have come to appreciate their pets more and more as family members and would really like the same level of care for the family members, they would for the child or themselves, and so there’s a demand for it.
Jill B.: And we’ve talked about this in the past. And looking at some of the equipment and the specialized equipment that is available at your facility. It’s almost depending on how long your pet, your animal has to wait, you almost get, in some cases, better care than you might get if you were out trying to get it for yourself.
Dr. Hutchinson: Yes. The equipment that we have, including the MRI and the CT scanners, are one generation out of the human hospital. So the CT scanner came out of a human hospital in Ontario, but it’s similar to one that’s still in use in the Vancouver area. The MRI same thing is similar to ones that are in use in the Vancouver area. So that level of care that people are getting is also available.
The patient ventilator that we have available for animals that have, for instance, near-drowning or a serious ventilation issue is the same level as what’s available in the human hospitals now. In fact, at the beginning of the COVID crisis, the human hospitals reached out to be able to access our ventilator if they needed it if they had more patients than they had ventilators for. So it’s that level of equipment.
Jill B.: And would that have been something that you could have done?
Dr. Hutchinson: We absolutely would have made that available. I mean, obviously, we want it available for our patients, but certainly the human need for it, we said absolutely we would turn it over. Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary, and hopefully, it won’t be in the future as things hopefully improve.
Jill B.: Yes, definitely. Do you ever deal with critics or with people that think it’s just too much? And I’m not one; I had a dog that had kidney disease. So I know what it’s like to go through and do whatever you can. And to make sure your animal is comfortable as well, not to make them suffer. But are there critics who say, well, aren’t we going a little over the top by having CT scans and MRIs and doing all of these things for our animals?
Dr. Hutchinson: Certainly, there’s going to be that point of view. I think the people that we have working for us across the board are animal advocates. Just about everyone here has pets of their own, and they understand that these are innocent animals. That they can’t make a decision on their own, and we’re going to make recommendations based on what we think is best for the patient.
Even if just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. And so we’re going to evaluate and hopefully, help the client make a decision that what we are offering and doing is putting their pet through as little as possible, but hopefully, what it does have to go through for its care is going to be paid back with more good time at home.
Our goal is to get them home with the clients for as long as possible, as little pain as possible. It’s tough because we see very sick patients, but it’s very rewarding to get them home.
Jill B.: Yes, definitely. And the cost, as anybody would know as well, the cost it can be quite great. And not that it shouldn’t be, these are expensive pieces of equipment. The people who work there are very trained and qualified people. I would imagine a lot of the clients you deal with would have insurance.
Dr. Hutchinson: Yes, that, fortunately, has been a positive trend as well, as people have prioritized their pets. They’ve come to understand that insurance is a good thing. Because as you said, it can be quite costly. There’s a huge amount of overhead to be able to have the facility available to them.
And we have over 100 staff members, and just the payroll for them is huge. And we do a smaller number of things very thoroughly, so we don’t do it in volume; we do it in completeness. And for that reason, the cost is high. But there are several pet insurance companies that have been very good, I’ve been impressed by them. And fortunately, you know we’ve seen this surge in pet ownership in the last several months; with COVID, it seems to be across the industry. And what’s nice is we are seeing that many of these clients are going out and getting pet insurance as part of their responsible pet ownership. So yes, that helps.
Jill B.: Well, congratulations on getting the VECCS certification. Is there more certification to get, or is this as high as you go?
Dr. Hutchinson: This is as high as we go for VECCS. So there are three levels of certification, and level one is the highest level available for VECCS. But we can’t just rest on that, you know we’ll be re-evaluated, and we have to continue to keep that certification up.
There’s a corresponding VetCOT certification for trauma. So we are a trauma center as well, which is kind of a parallel, but also a high-level certification that we’ve also achieved.
Jill B.: All right. Well, Dr. Geoffrey Hutchinson, thank you so much for joining us to bring us up to date on this. It was great to chat with you.
Dr. Hutchinson: Thank you for taking the time.
Jill B.: All right.
Dr. Hutchinson: Bye-bye.
Jill B.: Bye-bye. Dr. Geoffrey Hutchinson is a board-certified veterinary surgeon, also the co-owner of the Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital. We are going to take a short break; a lot of people have been calling in on a much different animal note.
Calling in about that idea and the Vernon city council trying to go ahead with a Canada goose call. I will share some of those calls and a lot of reaction to the news conference held by Premier John Hogan earlier today as well. That’s all going to be here when we come back.