Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Strait area vet forced into retirement due to findings of negligence

  • July 21 2021
  • By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    

GUYSBOROUGH – A complaint was made to the Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association concerning the actions of veterinarian Dr. Sietse Van Zwol at the Highland Animal Hospital in Ingonish last August.

It stated that Van Zwol euthanized a woman’s dog when she brought the eight-year-old husky to the hospital for treatment of abnormalities in his paw and hind leg.

The Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association complaints committee began an extensive audit of Dr. Van Zwol’s medical records after reviewing the complaint.

In a decision dated July 12, 2021, the complaints committee wrote: “This audit raised a number of additional concerns respecting deficiencies in Dr. Van Zwol’s practice, principally relating to poor record keeping, lack of justification for diagnoses and treatment, minimal diagnostics being performed or recommended, and medication concerns.

“There should be protocols and procedures in place to safeguard against accidental euthanasia. One should not be able to ‘mistakenly’ kill an animal as this would imply those safeguarding protocols and procedures have been overlooked, disregarded, or simply ignored. To euthanize an animal that was not intended to be euthanized should not be seen as an accident, but rather as an act of negligence,” stated the committee’s report.

In consideration of these findings, the committee resolved, and Van Zwol accepted, the following outcomes: the veterinarian agreed to retire as of 5 p.m., July 9, 2021, and agrees that his retirement is a permanent one. He undertakes not to apply for a licence to practice veterinary medicine in Nova Scotia or any other jurisdiction.

In addition to retiring from veterinary practice, Van Zwol has also been ordered to sell his veterinary practice, the Highland Animal Hospital, within a year of the decision. The practice, based in Port Hawkesbury, has satellite clinics in Guysborough, Inverness and Chéticamp.

Frank Richardson, registrar of the Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association, told The Journal last week that Van Zwol isn’t the only veterinarian practising at the Highland Animal Hospital and the facility is not expected to close, “The practice is still ongoing.”

Richardson added that instances of veterinarians being forced to surrender their licence due to a complaint about practice are unusual, and noted that Van Zwol did offer his condolence and regret to the owner of the dog.

On July 19, Highland Animal Hospital representative Marie Rideout gave The Journal the following prepared statement during a telephone interview: “Everyone at Highland Animal Hospital wishes to assure the public that we will be remaining open with uninterrupted service for you and your canine and feline family. We thank you for your concern and interest and we look forward to serving you for many years to come. If you need vet service or supplies, please don’t hesitate to call on us.”

Rideout advised clients with further questions to call the Highland Animal Hospital in Port Hawkesbury at 902-625-3315.