BENNINGTON — For the 36th year in a row, the West Mountain Animal Hospital has received accreditation from the American Animal Hospital Association.
Through evaluations, the Association accredits small animal hospitals in the Unites States and Canada that exceed state regulations, according to a press release. The Association analyzes the hospital's patient care and pain management, surgery, pharmacy, laboratory, exam facilities, medical records, cleanliness, emergency services, dental care, diagnostic imaging, anesthesiology and continuing education.
The inspections occurred about every four years, but lately they have been happening every three, said Dr. Linda Morris. The hospital gets a few months in advance to prepare for the evaluation by going through a book of standards. An AAHA representative then spends the entire day inspecting the facility, along with pulling out random medical reports to ensure documenting is up to par. Morris said the inspector then goes through every page in the book. Later, a formal assessment is sent to the hospital detailing what standards it passed and what could be improved on.
"In order to get accredited, you have to pass a certain percentage [of standards]," Morris said. "It not only covers the medical and the surgery, but it also covers the facility; that we're meeting safety standards, that we're doing adequate continuing education for our staff and regular training. Every year they add stuff."
Morris said that every year the standards change, which means the facility needs to adapt to them in order to strive for accreditation. One example is the fact that animals undergoing surgery didn't need to have an IV (Intravenous therapy) catheter, but now it's required. Other updated standards involve pain management and how to administer medicine such as chemotherapy.
"It gives us a great opportunity to indicate to newer team members what it means to be at an AAHA accredited hospital. For me it's always a good reminder to always stay on top of things," Morris said.
One of the things West Mountain was told to improve on was continuing education of the entire staff, from the receptionist to the dog walker. The doctors explained that some staff get sent to conferences, enroll in webinars and further educate on their own time.
"We want a lot of our staff cross trained," Dr. Bo Bergman. "If somebody who answers the phone, we want them to come back and hold a dog."
"Or even to answer questions. If you're working in an animal hospital, you should know what heartworm disease is an basic parasites," Morris said.
The AAHA was established in 1933 and makes up of 6,000 veterinary care teams and more than 45,000 veterinary professionals. A hospital that is accredited means pets are being cared for by one of the top 12 to 15 percent of animal hospitals in the U.S. and Canada. Human hospitals are required to have an accreditation while animal hospitals are not. According to AAHA's site, 60 percent of pet owners believe their veterinary hospital is accredited when it isn't.
July 22 is the first annual AAHA-Accredited Hospital Day to "celebrate champions for excellent care," according to the organization's website. Clients of accredited hospitals can celebrate by posting photos and videos of pets on social media with the hashtag #AAHADay.
West Mountain is the only AAHA accredited hospital in southern Vermont. It employs four doctors, seven support staff including technicians and veterinary assistants and six front end staff. Pets able to be seen include dogs, cats, rabbits, pocket pets and chickens, for services such as wellness care, vaccinations, dental care, oncology, digital radiology, ultrasound, pet cremation services, parasite control, laser therapy, puppy training and emergency care, to name a few.
"I think it is the facility. I think it is the fact that we are AAHA accredited," Morris said. "The standards that we have to meet and the fact that we want to meet those standards. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort."
"We feel that it allows us to provide the compassionate care that we want to give our clients and the best medicine possible for any pet that walks through the door," Bergman said. "I think that's what sets us above everyone else."
West Mountain Animal Hospital is located at 1726 Harwood Hill Road. For more information about accreditation visit www.healthypet.com. To find accredited veterinary hospitals, visit hospital locator via AAHA.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.