Last week the news spread across the internet…”Candy maker Mars is buying L.A. animal hospital chain VCA for $7.7 billion” and “Better Known for Candy, Mars Makes a Big Bet on Pets.”
As expected…there was a major buzz, a frenzy within social media, and instant misinformation celebrex medication.
That is the media. That is social media. No fact checking. No true information. Just hysteria.
Why do I care? As a veterinary professional I care about the future of veterinary medicine.
Moreover, I have personally been part of this transition. Along with my passion for continuing education and VETgirl, I am an associate (emergency and critical care specialist) at the Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center (VSEC) in Levittown, Pennsylvania.
Just about 2 years ago, VSEC was purchased by BluePearl Veterinary Partners. BluePearl was subsequently acquired by Mars Petcare. Mars Petcare has acquired a vast veterinary and pet care portfolio including Banfield, BluePearl, Pet Partners, VCA, Royal Canin, Pedigree, Whiskas, pet DNA testing through the Wisdom Panel, and the pet technology company Whistle.
So what is the point of this post? I am not here to change the mind of everyone. I know that can’t be done. But it does bother me when I see people calling Mars Petcare the “Walmart of veterinary medicine.”
Here are 3 points I would like to make regarding our veterinary profession and being part of a larger veterinary group.
1) Mars is a family owned business, not a publicly traded business. Their decisions are not based on the media or at the discretion of shareholders. As a veterinarian, I don’t have to perform. I don’t have to meet a target. As a veterinarian I have to practice veterinary medicine. I have to do what is best for my patient and my client. Ultimately, Mars is invested more in pet care than candy. Over the past 2 years, BluePearl and Mars has shown me they are invested in the future of veterinary medicine.
2) A larger group of veterinary hospitals is not a disservice to the pet owner. A recent comment on the internet really made me upset. Paraphrasing…it stated, “This is really scary. Somehow I don’t think saved dollars are going to trickle down to higher salaries for the veterinarians and technicians.” Maybe not. While the salaries may not increase, there are many other factors to consider. If becoming part of a larger veterinary group leads to improved buying power…this will lead to less expensive medications, diagnostics, or costs to the client.
A veterinarian may now be able to provide services to a client that has financial concerns as the overhead costs would be less. A practice may have a higher profit margin that allows them to purchase additional medications to stock for the clients, new diagnostic tools, cheaper in-house blood work, in-house ultrasound machines, or new CT or MRI for speciality hospital.
These savings will allow for better medical care for our clients and their pets.
3) A major frustration for a hospital is human resources. The rising cost of health insurance alone can significantly limit attracting and hiring good associates. Larger associations provide a network of support allowing the practice to focus less on HR issues (health insurance, payroll administration, workers comp insurance, etc) and focus more on the veterinary team and the veterinary client.
I understand that there are veterinarians that enjoy practice ownership. I know not everyone will agree with my comments.
What I do know is that veterinary graduates have significant debt limiting any future chance of practice ownership for many. Veterinary associations and collaborations such as these allow leadership without ownership. They allow personal and professional growth. They decrease practice ownership frustrations such as human resources, health insurance, and negotiating prices with vendors. Their buying power decreases costs and allows a practice to improve their quality of medicine and patient care.
Being part of BluePearl and now Mars Petcare I have witnessed these changes and I am excited about the future of veterinary medicine.
Knowledge is power! And make 2017 even more powerful!
Garret Pachtinger, VMD, DACVECC
Board Certified Emergency and Critical Care Specialist