News spread quickly Saturday morning when the Central Island Veterinarian Emergency Hospital in Nanaimo said it was forced to close due to the loss of a vital piece of equipment.
Initially, there was no idea when it would reopen, and it was soon the topic of conversation at many dog parks across the region.
“I thought it would be very difficult for some people who had emergencies,” said Laurie Rankin, who was at the Parksville dog park.
The CIVEH is the only 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital outside Greater Victoria, so people north of Nanaimo were faced with an even longer and more expensive trip south for their sick or injured pets.
Fortunately, the hospital resolved the equipment issue sooner than expected, and the doors reopened at 2 p.m.
However, the brief closure and concerns highlighted the ongoing issue of not enough emergency care for pets and animals.
“They get burned out, right?” added Rankin. “So there’s really no emergency services locally that we know of.”
It’s a big concern for the owners of other animals too. Just speak to Lynda Koenders, who owns the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm in Victoria, home to over a hundred animals.
“They’re very, very busy everywhere we go or anybody we phone — they’re always busy,” Koenders told CHEK News Saturday.
She says some veterinarians aren’t caring for large animals anymore, focusing instead on small ones.
“There’s less money if a vet is out of the office for two hours at a farm, for example when they can see numerous dogs or cats in that same time,” said Koenders. “And even with some of the small animal vets, I’ve been told somebody was looking for a vet, and they said it was three weeks before they could get an appointment to have their pet looked at, so yeah it’s tough. It’s like human doctors, few and far between.”
The B.C. government announced Thursday that it is doubling the number of subsidized seats it pays for at Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon. The seats reserved for B.C. students will increase from 20 to 40 for people who want to train to become veterinarians and practice in B.C.
But critics say that’s not enough.
“Why are we satisfied with 40 when we do have a large veterinary shortage in British Columbia, especially in places like Northern Vancouver Island, Northern B.C. and rural, remote areas,” said Delta South Liberal MLA Ian Paton, who also serves as critic for agriculture and food.
The B.C. Government says there are no immediate plans for a vet college in B.C.