Ohio, who is checking your pet’s vet?
The next time you take your companion animal in for a check-up, ask the receptionist: “When was the last time this vet hospital was inspected?” Then share her answer with readers of this blog.
The mission of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Licensing Board is public protection, i.e. the OVMLB is charged with ensuring an appropriate standard of veterinary care for your animal.
How can it accomplish its mission when the Vet Board neither knows nor has records to verify how many veterinary hospitals are in Ohio? How can it monitor and enforce standards without having access to the most basic data – the names and locations of each veterinary hospital operating in the state?
After reviewing OVMLB financial statements obtained through a public records request, I formed an opinion about how our state veterinary board could improve in consumer protection. I share with both the Board and with you the following ways:
- Don’t give away half the revenue- The OVMLB enjoyed a three year revenue of about $1,700,000 (2010-2012). With their expenses totaling only $900,000, the balance of $800,000 was returned to the general fund. Note that while other Ohio regulatory agencies have continued access to the money they send back to the general fund, this is not the case for the OVMLB.
This restriction is not the standard in other states. The California Veterinary Medical Licensing Board, for example, sends about 3 – 5% of their annual revenue to the state general fund, but they continue to have access to use it if needed. Wouldn’t allowing the OVMLB access to their money improve their ability to fulfill its mission?
- Stay home- A review of the OVMLB expenses during the 2010-2012 reveals that investigative costs and travel expenses paid were almost equal. I attended a board meeting that began at 8:30 AM and ended at 10:40 AM with two short breaks. Why are board members being paid travel expenses for a two hour meeting? Teleconferences are free. Documents can be shared online before and during the meetings. Travel expenses could be reduced by $12,000 each year simply by using teleconferencing.
- Protect the public- Nearly $20,000 was spent in 2011 and 2012 on auditing the agency. The primary function of any audit should be to seek answers to the following questions: “What is this agency supposed to be doing? “Are they doing it?” and “If they are not doing it, how can we help them to do it?” The audits performed, in my opinion, failed to supply the answers after two expensive attempts. The ledger of assets and debits may tally up, but the primary responsibility of the OVMLB, public protection, remains unmet.
- Focus on standard of care- A look at the amount of money spent by the board on hearings compared to other expenditures during the two year period of 2010-2011 is very revealing. It was about the same as parking costs and slightly lower than office supplies. Hearings, it appears, rank a bit lower than paper and pencils. As the OVMLB is an oversight agency, the importance of hearings should be emphasized.
- Surprise the vet hospitals- The Vet Board is hindered by a 1992 law which mandates that they give a 5-day written notice before sending an inspector. The existence of violations occurring in a veterinary hospital are not likely to be seen with such advance notice.
Finally, I cite three, recent examples of tragedies that might have been prevented if the Ohio Veterinary Medical Licensing Board was truly providing the rigorous oversight of veterinarians, vet techs, and vet hospitals as it has been mandated to do by the citizens of Ohio.
- Dr. Bea Turk of Brunswick is an egregious example. Dr. Turk received several letters of reprimand, fines, violations, and several suspensions of her license by the OVMLB. Yet, she continued to practice unmonitored. Dr. Turk finally surrendered her license to the state this July.
- Brandi Tomko practiced veterinary medicine in Summit County without a license. She performed surgeries, wrote prescriptions, drew blood, etc. She had neither training nor credentials and many animals died under her care. She was found guilty by Judge Gallagher of Summit County and sentenced to jail time and fines earlier in 2013.
- Crystal Luli, founder of a pet rescue in Lorain, has had many allegations about conditions at a facility, including operating a veterinary hospital without a license.
Ohio animals, as patients, Ohio pet owners, as consumers, and Ohio veterinarians, as colleagues, deserve to have trust in the Ohio companion animal health care system. Yet the facts clearly demonstrate a “black hole” in veterinary oversight with the bulk of $300,000 each year being used to maintain a government bureaucracy, not to ensure public trust or public health.
Ohio, contact your state representatives and senators. Urge them to support a veterinary oversight bill for the improved health care of Ohio companion animals. Contact information for your state legislators can be found on my web site: www.pawsandthelaws.com
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