Booragoon vet surgeon deregistered for unprofessional conduct

Stock image.
Stock image.

A FORMER Rabbit Shop and Medical Clinic employee who at just 17 and with no formal training says she helped with animal surgeries is relieved the principal of the Booragoon business Elizabeth-Jo Willot Vickridge will be deregistered.

In May, the State Administrative Tribunal found veterinarian Ms Willot Vickridge guilty of unprofessional conduct by breaching the Veterinary Surgeons Act and vet regulations on a number of occasions between July 2010 and February 2013.

She was found to have allowed a veterinary student on work placement to perform surgery on live animals and a number of other employees were permitted to perform ultrasounds, sterilisations and euthanasia when she was not present.

She has been ordered to pay the Veterinary Surgeons’ Board’s legal costs of $200,000 and will be removed from the Register of Veterinary Surgeons in WA in August.

Kate Hulbert said was employed as a kennel hand by Ms Willot-Vickridge shortly after graduating from Applecross Senior High School about eight years ago.

Most of her time was spent cleaning out enclosures and feeding and watering the animals at the clinic, but Ms Hulbert said she was also occasionally called into the surgery room to help Ms Willot-Vickridge.

“The rabbit was under a general anaesthetic as it had a gas nozzle over its nose and was asleep,” she said.

“Elizabeth told me to hold the gas nozzle in place and to make sure that the animal didn’t stop breathing.”

On another occasion, Ms Hulbert said she was given a brief demonstration and then told to clean and sterilise equipment packs ahead of surgery.

“I think now I would find that easier to keep up with but I was only 17 when I was employed there,” she said.

Ms Hulbert said she used to feel physically ill while walking to work but could never pluck up the courage to confront Ms Willot-Vickridge.

“I was very shy and quiet and basically did whatever I was told to do without questioning it; I didn’t want to displease Elizabeth,” she said.

“I didn’t want to quit, but equally I wasn’t comfortable carrying out duties that I thought were beyond my qualifications and capabilities.”

Ms Hulbert she left the job when her shifts began to clash with rehearsal times at university where she was studying music.

She said it had never crossed her mind while working at the vet surgery to make any report to a regulatory body.

Ms Willot-Vickridge confirmed that Ms Hulbert worked six shifts over a six-week period beginning January 2010 but denied asking the then teenager to assist with any kind of surgical procedure.

“I have checked our end of day notes through that period for comments on her jobs assigned and completed,” she said.

“Nothing confirms her claims as I would expect them not to.”

She also said she did not intend to close The Rabbit Shop and Medical Clinic when she is formally deregistered later this year.

“The facility we run is not solely a veterinary practice and there are no plans for any closure,” she said.

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