M*A*S*H clinics are ideal in regions in which no local spay neuter/option exists and which is too remote for transporting animals to any other clinic within the region. M*A*S*H clinics rely on equipment (anesthesia machines, surgery tables, etc) which is set up in a building or tent in a remote community in order to hold spay neuter clinics on site.
This model is generally used in remote or rural locations such as Indian reservations or other low-population areas. If on state land (as opposed to federal land such as a reservation), all state laws must be adhered to. If you’re not sure if M*A*S*H clinics are permitted, this is the time to speak with the veterinary examiners board in your state.
The benefit of a M*A*S*H program is that it enables services to be provided in a location in which it would be cost prohibitive, or simply impossible, to establish a permanent clinic and in which flexible services, such as multiple veterinarians for increased volume may be needed. Though a M*A*S*H clinic is very labor intensive, the flexibility and economy of a M*A*S*H clinic is not present in any other style of program.
By relying on volunteers, a building which is “borrowed,” and vans or pick-up trucks for transporting the equipment, M*A*S*H clinics are the most cost effective model there is for a community that can be served successfully through periodic clinics.
M*A*S*H clinics can be great for remote or very rural, underserved areas. The number of surgeries depends on the surgeon (or surgeons) and committed volunteers who are able to monitor recovery tables, wash instruments, etc. Any program which brings temporary services to a community must have a mechanism for providing aftercare if problems arise. The visiting veterinary team can remain in the area or have a contractual relationship with a veterinarian.
However, because M*A*S*H programs require a temporary space and several volunteers, the M*A*S*H model has obvious limitations; it may be difficult or impossible to expand the program if the building is only available for a limited number of days or amount of time. And any program which relies on volunteers also has time constraints. However, if more services are needed, it may be time to seek another location within the region or partner with others to develop a more comprehensive or widespread service.
Two groups of people come together to create a successful M*A*S*H clinic.
- The local host which is responsible for outreach, advertising, securing a building, supplying volunteers, etc and
- The visiting M*A*S*H team which provides the actual veterinary services. This team includes the veterinarian, technicians or assistants, coordinator, etc.
This model involves a time commitment from a local organization that invites the M*A*S*H unit to come in, and this may be a humane organization, a civic organization that strives to address companion animal overpopulation, an animal control agency, local health department or tribal health office. At least three, preferably four volunteers are needed for each high volume veterinarian/ technician team that is on site.
The surgery team itself will be one veterinarian and usually one technician and one assistant.