You may have noticed how busy your local veterinarian is, and perhaps you’ve had the misfortune of needing to visit an emergency clinic recently and noticed the same at that facility. Veterinary clinics are insanely swamped right now all across the country. Our clinic in Kamloops, BC has about a 3-4 week wait for a non-urgent appointment, which is just unheard of until COVID. We don’t have an emergency clinic, so each of the clinics in town takes a day each week to be on call. We are run off our feet on those days seeing all of the urgent and emergent issues for pets in Kamloops and our surrounding area. I’ve also heard that many emergency clinics have a 4-6 hour wait to be seen. When I used to work emergency it would maybe be an hour wait max. The specialists that I work with are also booking weeks to months in advance for an appointment.
So why is this? It is due to COVID and the interesting fall out from that. For one, many clinics had to shut down elective procedures like spays, neuters, vaccinations, health checks etc early on in the COVID shut down. We were playing catch up on those for a long time. Like other areas, our team members have had to stay home and wait for COVID results before being able to return to work. If we don’t have our full team, we can’t complete all of our tasks for the day, so we end up having to cancel surgeries or reschedule things to another week, creating a new backlog. Because most clinics went to curbside service for a long period of time, and some are still in curbside, and no owners were allowed in the building, this greatly slowed down the pace at the clinic and requires more staff to help handle our animals. So when we could previously have seen 30 animals per day for example, during the curbside service maybe we could only see 75% of those animals, creating yet another back log. Additional cleaning measures have been implemented like every other business/medical facility has had to do. This also adds to the staff workload and the time between patients. However one of the biggest impacts has been the massive influx of puppies and kittens. People are getting new family pets at a rate that I’ve not seen before. These animals all require their puppy/kitten series of vaccines and also all need to be spayed/neutered. In addition, the number of dogs being bred is creating that many more c-section or breeding related illnesses that we need to attend to.
This is creating anxiety and stress for the veterinary team as we know how much your dogs mean to you and want to be able to see every animal when an owner calls, but logistically it just isn’t possible right now. This added stress/anxiety has caused some veterinarians to leave the profression leaving an even greater back log. Hopefully as restrictions ease and life gets back to normal, so will veterinary care.