VDA South Africa is the most mature VDA structure, having been established in 1992, and is the only formal veterinary defense organisation in Africa, even though the profession is much older than this and litigation against the veterinary profession has been commonplace for some decades.
Each VDA Consultant is appointed, trained and employed by the Veterinary Defence Company (VDC). The VDC manages VDA South Africa and all the other VDAs internationally. The VDC in turn, is owned and managed by its veterinarian shareholders.
The VDA 20 years of experience in defending thousands of incidents, disputes, South African Veterinary Council complaints and veterinary malpractice lawsuits.
VDA South Africa is a registered Financial Services Provider. It purchases malpractice insurance for its members from Lloyds. The VDC is currently establishing the organisation’s own International Insurance Company in the USA, which is intended to provide malpractice insurance cover for VDA members in other countries (see Veterinary Mutual Insurance International RRG, on the Home Page).
VDA South Africa operates a mutual defense fund derived from membership fees, which is used to provide compensation for proven financial loss caused by the negligence of its members, and to for legal fees and costs in SAVC disciplinary proceedings.
It is a condition of VDA membership and insurance cover that members contact the VDA for advice and guidance with each incident or dispute that arises and may lead to a SAVC complaint or malpractice lawsuit. In this way the VDA can advise and guide its members on client communications and management of the matter from that point forward, which will to prevent the matter from escalating into a stressful event for the member, which could include a SAVC disciplinary complaint and/or litigation. In addition, the VDA’s intervention also helps to protect against communication break-down and loss of the client to the practice, which protects the interests of the member as well as the profession.
VDA Member Services
The VDA provides two broad categories of services to members, known as the Claims Prevention Program and the Claims Management Program. The Claims Prevention Program consists of pro-active measures aimed at preventing medical incidents, events and disputes from occurring at all, while the Claims Management Program consists of re-active measures aimed at managing incidents, events and disputes that do occur to prevent them from becoming State Veterinary Board complaints or civil court malpractice lawsuits.
The Claims Prevention Program services include:
• Advice and Guidance provided by experienced Veterinary Consultants on all aspects of defensive veterinary practice and practice management.
• Model consent forms, including the informed consent to treatment form, the consent to off-label use of medication form, the use of chronic medication form, the unauthorised removal of an animal from hospital form, the consent to transportation form, the consent to abandonment form and the consent to euthanasia form. In addition, the VDA will tailor-make forms for its members for specific situations, on request.
• Bulletins on best-practice medical protocols.
• Model certificates for vaccination, health and soundness. The VDA will tailor-make certificates for its members for specific situations, on request.
• Evaluation of members’ consent forms, reports and certificates to ensure that these will protect the member and pass muster in the event of a Veterinary Board Complaint or malpractice lawsuit.
• Daily e-mail and website articles (see <News from VDA> tab on the Home Page) on real members’ cases actually defended by the VDA as well as notices and alerts that affect the profession.
The Claims Prevention Program is dynamic and covers everything that a veterinary practitioner needs to do in order to prevent the events and incidents that are an inevitable part of private practice from becoming disputes. VDA members are wiser practitioners, who are empowered by the VDA to offer our members the means be better equipped in terms of measures, knowledge and communication skills. Members become wiser practitioners, who manage their practices and their clients better to create a less stressful working environment. They face fewer client grievances and dispute, and they suffer less anxiety, depression and burnout. They remain longer in private practice and they are more satisfied as practitioners, with happier clients, staff members and loved ones. And when a grievance or dispute does “slip through” the Claims Prevention cordon VDA members know that, as long as they have notified the VDA right at the beginning of an event, incident or dispute, the VDA’s Claims Management Program has already been activated.
The Claims Management Program services include:
• Experienced Veterinary Consultants to advise on how to manage an event, incident and dispute; what to say and what not to say to the client; how to best mitigate weaknesses in the defence of the case that occurred prior to the notification, as well as instructions on how to manage the next step of the process. The Veterinary Consultant in charge of the matter remains in regular contact with the member, advising and guiding the member throughout every step of the process.
• Formulation of the Defence Theme and the Defence Strategy by the VDA’s Veterinary Consultants Team. VDA Consultants consist of experienced veterinary practitioners, with various legal qualifications, who are part-time or full-time practitioners in veterinary law and ethics. Each Consultant is familiar with the veterinary rules, code and law pertaining to the member’s State in which they practice as well as with relevant law. Consultants are also familiar with the manner in which the SAVC operates, as well as its peculiarities and limitations.
• Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR). The VDA steps in to replace the member in dealing with the aggrieved client. This has many benefits for both member and client, which are outlined in the <VDA Accreditation> section on this website.
• Formulation of the Response to Complaints made to the SAVC against members. The VDA uses the Defence Theme and Defence Strategy already developed from the time that the incident, event or dispute was notified and applies its twenty years’ experience and expertise as well as its knowledge of the SAVC’s methods and vagaries to formulate the response to the allegations and complaints raised.
• Formulation of court pleadings in line with the Defence Theme and Strategy and defence of civil malpractice lawsuit court proceedings which are conducted in conjunction with solicitors and barristers on the VDA’s panel of lawyers who have local right of appearance.
• Defence of proceedings in Consumer Courts, Consumer Forums, Administrative Tribunals and Small Claims Courts.
The VDA manages a mutual defense fund derived from membership fees, which is used to provide compensation for proven financial loss suffered by the owner and caused by the negligence of its members. The fund also pays for legal fees and costs in SAVC veterinary licence defence.
Further Membership Services include:
• VDA Hospital Accreditation for hospitals owned by VDA members who wish to make it known to the public that their hospital utilises the VDA's Alternate Dispute Resolution service for client grievances that arise from the treatment of their animals. See <VDA Hospital Accreditation> on the Home Page.
• Assistance for members suffering from anxiety, inability to cope, depression, burnout or suicidal feelings. More details are available on the Home Page and in the section on the Member Wellness Program.
The VDA’s Member Services incorporate everything that a Southern African veterinary practitioner needs to protect their professional integrity and reputation. The VDA programs have been developed by its directors and consultants over a period of twenty years, in which time the VDA has defended literally thousands of incidents, disputes, Board complaints and civil malpractice lawsuits. These directors and consultants have used this experience to develop and fine-tune the defence and protection capabilities of the VDA to produce what is now a unique and formidable support service for American veterinary practitioners.
The VDA consists of sixteen veterinarians and six support staff who are all intimately involved with the veterinary profession, who are passionate about helping and supporting veterinarians and who are passionate about developing the VDA’s international movement.
If you are a Southern African veterinary practitioner that has not yet discovered the benefits of the protection provided by the VDA, then we invite you to join our movement of veterinarians, managed by veterinarians for the benefit of veterinarians.