Prince George veterinarians are cutting back after-hours services to help ease the burden on an already overworked group of dedicated professionals.
Starting July 1st, the Prince George Urgent Care Group, which includes Hart Family Veterinary Clinic, Prince George Veterinary Hospital, Ospika Animal Hospital, Murdoch Veterinary Clinic, College Heights Veterinary Clinic, and Birchwood Veterinary Clinic will only be available for emergency care until 10 pm seven days per week.
They also outlined no urgent care will not be around on June 29th, as well as July 25th and 26th.
Casey Bockus, who is the manager of the Prince George Veterinary Hospital told the media during an event at the Duchess Park Dog Park today (Wednesday) that it’s all about protecting the 16 vets that practice in our city.
“The shortage and burnout truly is resulting in our doctors having to put up boundaries and us put up boundaries for our doctors,”
“This isn’t just a Prince George problem, this is a North American problem and it could even be a worldwide problem and everybody is doing what they can to protect their veterinarians during a time like this.”
For local pet owners who may encounter a life-threatening situation, the only after-hours option will be able to access the Vet Triage website where they can connect virtually with a technician or vet.
“They can judge more if it is a true emergency or not because anyone speaking over the phone is very difficult for us even as trained professionals to tell whether or not it’s a true emergency. With a video conference someone can actually see your pet and see what it’s doing,” said Ramona Veeken, office manager for Ospika Animal Hospital.
However, if further assistance is required, a lengthy trip to places like Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, or Edmonton may be needed in order to receive 24-hour emergency care.
But, it’s key for pet owners to act quickly and not leave a potentially dire situation to the last minute.
“If you think something is up, don’t be afraid to reach out to the clinic you are aligned with and not push things to the middle of the night and worry if it becomes an emergency,” added Leah Baker, Hart Family Veterinary Clinic.
The current shortage of veterinarians in PG is equally as depressing seeing a 25% decline over the past two years.
With no veterinary school in BC and no 24-hour clinic on the horizon for Prince George, pet owners will likely have to grin and bear for the foreseeable future.
“No matter how we look at it, I see us dealing with it for many years to come and that is overwhelming,” stated Mel Bauman, manager of Birchwood Veterinary Clinic.
“We’ve been able to see this coming for a number of years now,” added Bockus,
“As one of the larger practices in town, I would say we are turning 20 or 30 people away a day that are looking for a veterinary clinic. A lot of people have had to go out of town to Quesnel or further south to get veterinary care.”
Bockus is also lobbying for a change in federal policy that would see foreign vets practice in the province including Prince George, but, even that is not a short-term fix and would likely be a few years down the road.
He understands that while area residents will be fuming with this change, it is not fair for each clinic’s front office staff to bear the brunt.
“When it comes to frustration and such, it is not fair to take it out on the front-end staff,” said Bockus.
Here is a guide for Prince George pet owners to determine, which level of care is needed:
Non-urgent care (wait for clinic to open in daytime hours)
Symptoms: Itching/scratching, chronic weight loss, chronic illness/diseases with no recent change in condition, hair loss, red eyes/skin/ears, single seizure with full recovery.
Semi-urgent care (wait for daytime hours of visit www.vettriage.com)
Symptoms: Vomiting (two or fewer episodes), acute diarrhea without vomiting, straining to defecate, witnessed the ingestion of foreign body with no signs of illness, blood in urine, straining to urinate for dog or female cat, small wounds or cuts, non-productive cough but breathing fine otherwise, broken toenail, squinting/eye discharge, significantly swollen eye, allergic reactions (facial swelling, hives), limping, witnessed ingestion of rat poison, mild trauma (single injury), ear infection with head shaking.
Urgent care (visit www.vettriage.com first, then call after-hours emergency group)
Symptoms: Persistent/severe vomiting, appetite loss for more than 24 hours, known foreign body ingestion causing illness, aggressive cough without distress, trouble during active labour/post-birth illness, multiple seizures within the 24-hour period but not actively seizing, diarrhea paired with vomiting or loss of appetite, toxin ingestion, blood in urine in a male cat, porcupine quills.
True emergency (immediately contact the after-hours emergency group or an emergency clinic)
Symptoms: Respiratory distress, collapse, unable to walk or get up, straining to urinate (especially male cats), active seizure/cluster seizure/epileptic seizure, severe trauma (hit by car, animal attack, severe multiple injuries), profuse bleeding from any wound, persistent non-productive retching.