You may have noticed it’s been a lot busier at Vetwest recently. You’ve likely found it harder to find an appointment straight away when previously there were more times available to suit you. So why is this?
Like many industries, COVID-19 has affected the veterinary industry. Clinics around the world are being impacted and unfortunately, we’ve not been immune to the effects in Western Australia. Numerous clinics have experienced a significant increase in workload as many people have realised the benefits of pet ownership, acquired puppies and kittens, and rescued pets in record numbers. We’ve also had to meet new health and safety requirements to help keep our clinics safe and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
In addition to an increased workload, the challenges are compounded by a shortage of veterinary staff due to state and international border restrictions. These shortages are impacting the recruitment of much-needed veterinarians at Vetwest, nationally and globally.
Vet clinics around the world have reported a surge in demand for the medical care of pets. This is due to:
- More people getting pets – lots of people decided to add a pet to their family during the pandemic. With an increase in pet adoptions and new puppies and kittens we’re seeing more health checks, vaccinations, desexing surgeries and other appointments.
- Pet owners noticing changes in their pets – when a lot of us were forced to start working from home, we spent more time with our pets and started to notice health concerns in our furry family members. Spending time with our pets can help us to be in tune with what is normal health and behaviour, and as a result notice when this ‘normal’ changes.
With an increase in pets and clients walking through our doors, we’ve had to battle with challenges that has reduced the number of patients we’ve been able to see because of:
- Shortage of veterinarians – COVID-19 has compounded pre-existing issues affecting the veterinary profession, and shortage of veterinarians available to fill positions across clinics at Vetwest and around the country. Travelling international vets and vets from around the country have previously helped to fill vacancies in our teams but with border restrictions we have limited access to veterinarians to fill these important gaps. This has meant that our hard-working team are often struggling to keep up with demand and facing constant busy days with back-to-back appointments.
- Less staff on duty – due to new standards of disease prevention and hygiene, staff sick leave has risen. Teams who are already understaffed are feeling the pressure when their colleagues can’t come in to work. We expect this will increase as COVID moves through the state and we’re forced to endure isolation measures.
- Social distancing challenges – during lockdown and restriction periods, contact between our Vetwest team and pet owners can be limited to drop-off appointments or reduced contact. We’ve had to navigate times where pet owners dropped off their pets, waited outside and communicated with our team on the phone. All these extra steps add time and complexity to our normal operating procedures, significantly reducing the number of patients we can see as a result.
How you can help
Your Vetwest healthcare team are dedicated to providing the highest standards of care for you and your pets. With our team working at full capacity, it means our schedules are heavily booked and we’re needing to prioritise care for unwell pets and urgent appointments. As a result, routine appointments such as vaccinations, health checks and non-urgent medication requests are experiencing longer wait times.
With a team giving it their all to make sure your pets are being taken care of, it’s also important we care for them. You can help your Vetwest healthcare team during this busy time by:
- Phoning or booking online in advance for appointments for non-urgent veterinary care (vaccinations, health checks etc). Expect to wait longer for these types of appointments and plan accordingly.
- Tip: When you receive your pet’s vaccination reminder, book the appointment straight away and don’t wait until it’s overdue.
- Think ahead when ordering prescription medication refills prior to your pet running out. This helps to give our team time to process your requests (which requires veterinary review and approval) and order the medication.
- Please be understanding in the unlikely event we have to reschedule your appointment. If there is a pet that needs urgent medical attention we may have to reschedule your pet’s non-urgent appointment. This is a last resort and we know this can be frustrating and inconvenient for you.
- Always call us if you’re concerned about the health of your pet. We want to ensure you’re getting the right advice and help to find you an appointment when you need it.
- Remember, kindness and respect are the best medicine when visiting the vet. Our team are trying to do the best they can to help you and your pets.
Thank you for your understanding and support during this challenging time.