Angry Doctor

Sunday, October 01, 2006

How much is that doctor in the window?

OK, we may not be quite there yet, but it does seem like we've just taken another step closer?

AVA introduces Pet Shop Grading Scheme to up standards of pet shops

SINGAPORE : Pet shops in Singapore will soon be graded.

The scheme is similar to how the National Environment Agency (NEA) grades hawker centres.

This is part of Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) plans to improve the standards of pet shops in Singapore.

Shops that sell cats and dogs are the first to be affected by the Pet Shop Grading Scheme.

They account for about 160 pet shops out of the 460 in Singapore.

The scheme, which is to be rolled out later this year, is part of the government's overall plan to enhance the professionalism of the industry.

This was announced at the AVA's Responsible Pet Ownership Roadshow on Saturday.

"We have always been looking at ways to lift the standard. We do have some spate of events recently about pet abuse, so I think it is good that the community is becoming more aware and the response has been encouraging," says Grace Fu, Minister of State for National Development.

"It's good to know that Singaporeans do care about pets' welfare and I think we should all work towards increasing animal welfare standards in Singapore," she adds.

AVA hopes the move will motivate pet shop owners to maintain a high level of animal care.

Says Dr Leow Su Hwa, head of Animal Welfare Education at AVA: "It's going to be based on three factors. First, we will see how the pet shop maintains and keeps these animals, whether they're looked after properly. Second, we want to see how they maintain the premises, that is, if it's clean and the cages are of the right sizes so that there are sufficient space for the animals.

"Third, we want to see how they do their client education. So it's not just a question of selling the pet but they should give relevant and proper information about how to take care of the pets."

Many pet shop owners welcome the move but some have raised concerns that the grading may affect their business.

"If a customer comes into my shop and see a Grade C or D, they will walk out of my shop before they even ask any questions. My shop is an eight-year-old store. If I need to get a Grade A, I have to improve on the hygiene and the smell, but it will cost us a bomb to renovate the whole store," says George Tan, who runs Joy Doggy.

Animal welfare societies say it's a step in the right direction but pet lovers have mixed reactions.

"(Grade) A is the best of course. It's more trustful, and if I have any queries, I believe they'll know the answers," says one member of the public.

"The grading doesn't make a difference because I would have done my homework prior to coming to the pet shop, and also through friends' recommendations. So when I come to the look at the dogs, I would get a sense of how the shop owner is treating the dogs, and the environment that they're being put in," says a pet lover.

AVA says its animal welfare inspectors will conduct routine checks on pet shops at least once a year.

Those that have a poor grade and do not show any signs of improvement may be suspended from business or have their licences withdrawn. - CNA /ls

OK, the day for an open grading scheme for GP clinics may never come, but angry doc is nevertheless intrigued by the topic.

A grading scheme has meaning to a consumer/patient only if he understands how the grading is arrived at, and whether the criteria used in the grading are the same ones he would use to grade that service/clinic. Customers who understand that will choose the service he personally grades highly, and disregard the official grade.

That's why some 'C' grade hawker stalls seem to pull in the crowd - if it tastes good and you don't get a stomach upset from it, you'll probably return. And if you didn't like the food, an 'A' grading wouldn't make a difference to you.

Still, those who do not know the above and choose to put their trust in an official grading system, especially those with no prior experience of patronising the service, will be influenced by the grades.

The grading for pet shops involves a new dimension - that of professional knowledge. It makes the grading perhaps more helpful as professional knowledge is to most laymen 'confidence goods' - you don't know if it's good advice before you apply them, and sometimes not even then or after. It also approximates the GP-patient situation.

Likewise, the criterion on care provided for the pets also approximates subjective clinical outcomes (like blood pressure and HbA1c levels) which can be monitored.

One dimension that is not assessed is that of service-provider-client relationship, or the patient-doctor relationship. It is perhaps impossible to assess meaningfully, and it is an aspect angry doc is ambivalent about.

The patient-doctor relationship is an important one in determining how functional a therapeutic alliance is. Ok, that was just a quacky way of saying that patients tend to trust and follow the advice of doctors who seem to understand and care for them. It is helpful, but without good knowledge on the part of doctor which translate to good clinical outcome indices, an emphasis on a good patient-doctor relationship will turn the practice into quackery. A patient can be poorly-cared for but happy with his doctor, simply because he doesn't know any better.

Yet if we leave this criterion out, we risk ignoring the fact that for some patients, their aim in seeing a doctor is not simply to hit those clinical outcome results for the doctor, or that some patients simply cannot hit those targets. Grading a doctor or practice on target figures will put a strain between the patient and doctor when they do not have the same therapeutic outcome in mind.

Will the day come? And when it does, will you be influenced by the grading system?



  • *Pengz* Like dat oso can imply to your trade?!

    By Blogger pretzel, At October 02, 2006 11:05 pm  

  • there are some things that just can't be measured. in his book Blink, author Malcolm Gladwell quotes the report of a study that found the surgeons sued most often weren't the ones who made the most mistakes, but the ones who treated their patients most condescendingly. doctors who weren't very good at their jobs but treated their patients very well didn't get sued much. ah well. life's not fair anyway.

    By Blogger The Angry Medic, At October 03, 2006 6:58 am  

  • pretzel, I'm sure pet shop owners didn't expect a trade as 'professional' as theirs to become openly graded like so many common hawkers stalls too.

    By Blogger angry doc, At October 03, 2006 10:44 am  

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