Greater Victoria pet owners will have one less place for the foreseeable future to take their furry friends during an emergency.
West Coast Animal Veterinary Emergency Specialty Hospital (WAVES) announced on social media it will be pausing emergency services due to staffing shortages.
Clinic founding member and head of internal medicine Dr. Erinne Branter said the difficult decision was made to preserve the mental health of the clinic’s staff, who have faced a heightened risk of burnout for several years, and the situation only got worse due to the pandemic.
“We’ve tried to keep it open in the best way we can, but found in doing so, we are burning our people out more. We have some new talent coming in now, and we felt we shouldn’t be putting them in that situation as they are settling in,” said Branter. “Every shift is hard when you are understaffed, so until we are able to do it correctly, we are putting a pause on our emergency services.”
Branter said the hope is emergency services will be resumed within three months, and no later than six months from now.
While the Langford clinic – one of the only emergency vet clinics on southern Vancouver Island – is rebuilding its emergency room team, it will only be offering specialty services such as internal medicine, neurology, and surgery.
The clinic’s staffing shortages are not a unique problem, Branter said. Globally there has been a shortage of vets for several years now as the industry has been evolving to one with less academic training, more private practices increasingly owned by large corporations, fewer trained vets deciding to actually practice, and a mental health crisis.
“We have the highest suicide rate of any profession, at least it was last year,” said Branter. “Then you couple it with the pandemic, which no one had seen before. One person gets sick and the whole hospital gets sick and shuts down while the cases don’t go away. Then everybody got pets, so we saw more pets than ever.”
As WAVES works to rebuild its staffing levels, Branter said she encourages pet owners to be patient and kind with their vets, as practices all over the region and beyond are facing similar challenges. And with even fewer emergency services available for the next few months, she said preventative pet care will be even more important.
“If you are noticing something is not quite right with your pet, talk to your local veterinarian and get in to see them as soon as you can. If there is something small, address it quickly before it becomes an emergency which will be challenging to address now. Be vigilant, keep your pet away from things which could make them sick and try to catch things early.”
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