Saturday, July 26, 2008

Harold Hill and Alpine Veterinary Hospital in Alpine CA: Inspections show "serious health threat to animal patients, their owners, and staff"

Shockingly, in spite of a history of prior violations, and several inspections which showed shocking and dangerous conditions, this story ends with the California Veterinary Board re-instating the suspended operating license of Alpine Veterinary Hospital, and then "staying" a revocation of that license, allowing the business to keep operating, albeit "on probation." I think that the history of this place should give serious pause to any one who lives in the area, uses this business, or ever even has thought of doing so.


First of all, at the time of these violations, Harold Hill had been the managing veterinarian at Alpine Hill since April, 2004. He already had a history of violations.

In 2002, he was cited for "violation Business and Professions Code sections [which relate to] fraud, deception, negligence or incompetence in the practice of veterinary medicine" and "failure to properly register a place of practice." He was fined only $300. In 2004 he was cited for violation regulations pertaining to both record-keeping AND ANESTHESIA. In keeping with the veterinary boards' often baffling history of punishing subsequent violations even more lightly than the one before, he was fined only $250 for that latter violation.

Then came the inspections.

In September 2005 a complaint was filed with the Veterinary Board stating that Alpine Veterinary Hospital was very unsanitary.

The Vet Board sent an inspector, who found that:

". . . the facility was far below the minimum standards and a serious health threat to animal patients, their owners, and the staff that worked there. The condition wa2so poor that it could not be remedied without substantial work and renovation."

Moreover, at the time of the inspection, there was NO veterinarian on the premises, and the inspector observed a unlicensed staff member performing veterinary medicine without a license.

As a result of this inspection, on November 16th of that year, an "interim suspension" was issued to both Harold Hill, DVM, and Alpine Animal Hospital itself.

The inspector went back for a recheck on November 25th, finding that "the condition of the facility was still below the minimum standards and a serious health threat to animal patients, their owners, and the staff . . ." Hill was again not present at the facility, and it is noted that he had not been there for months, and no one knew how to reach him.

What were the details of the dangerous and unsanitary conditions? Here are some excerpts:

"The surgical room was extremely unsanitary . . ."

"The floors, tables and counters in the surgical room were unsanitary. Paint was peeling off the walls and there were holes and leaks in the ceilings, dust on everything, and clutter everywhere . . . "

"The reception room was unsanitary and the lighting was too dim . . . "

"Non-surgery related items were left in the surgical room and there was no proper place for surgery . . . "

"There was no emergency light in the surgical room . . . "

"Oxygen equipment . . . was not properly maintained."

"The exposure and developing techniques for x-rays were unnacceptable . . . "

"There was no centrifuge for adequate blood preparation to ensure qulaity readings, there were also no other available basic and/or emergency lab tests on site, therefore, the laboratory services were unnacceptable . . . "

"Exercise runs . . . have wood floors . . . "

"Emergency drugs were not properly maintained . . . need to replace expired drugs . . . "

"Resuscitation bags were not properly maintained . .. Need to buy ambu-bag."

"Failed to post sign indicating 'no staff on premises overnight' . . . "

"Improper x-ray identification . . . "

"Improper hazardous waste disposal . . . "

"Inadequate anesthetic monitoring . . . "

"Failure to follow proper sanitary surgical procedures . . . "

". . . the consultant observed employee Dawn McKinney practising veterinary medicine without a license. The consultant observed Ms. McKinney perform an examination, provide treatment, and prescribe medication for the dog. The consultant confirmed that Ms. McKinney is not licensed by the California Veterinary Medical Board to practice veterinary medicine, nor is she certified as a Registered Veterinary Technician . . . "

There is more . . . but do you need more?

It seems odd to me that anyone walking into this place wouldn't have had a huge feeling of danger and walked right out with their pet. However, some people are very trusting, or may have had the kind of relationship with this place that caused them not to realize what was happening over time. And surely, no one who took their pets there knew the dirty little secrets of the surgical suite.

This story ended with Harold Hill surrendering his license, but Alpine Hospital is still in business.

Would you EVER go there? I sure woudln't!

California Vet Board Newsletter Announcing Disciplinary Action