One of South Island’s two 24/7 vet clinics to ‘pause’ emergency services

One of South Island's two 24/7 vet clinics to 'pause' emergency services

A 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic on the South Island says it will temporarily halt emergency services due to ongoing staffing issues, leaving the South Island with only one around-the-clock animal hospital.

WAVES Hospital in Langford announced on social media last week that it would “pause” emergency care as of Sept. 1 to focus on specialty services only.

The hospital, one of just two 24/7 facilities on the South Island, says it will rebuild its emergency care team before it’s able to reopen the ER.

WAVES had previously reduced its emergency hours due to multiple issues including staff burnout, a pandemic pet boom and a severe lack of veterinarians in the province.

Because the problem has gotten worse, the clinic says it has made the difficult decision to do away with ER hours completely for the time being.

Dr. Erinne Branter, head of internal medicine and co-founder of Waves Emergency Animal Hospital in Langford, says the hospital is making the change with a heavy heart, knowing that it will impact many pet owners in the region, but says it’s one that must be done to protect the well-being of overworked staff members.

“The people that are left working are overworked, and our work is deeply emotional to us because it’s health-care giving and it’s caring for people’s family members, and so that pushes the people that can work to the brink,” she said Monday. “Our goal at this point is to slow down and take care of the people we have.”

Branter says on top of the vet shortage and issues compounded by the pandemic, WAVES has also been hit by management changes and gaps combined with a tripling of business.

“It would be called the perfect storm for a small business that was 10 months old when COVID hit,” she said.

While the province has doubled the seats they’re funding in vet schools from 20 to 40 for 2022, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what the industry is facing, said Branter. The Society of BC Veterinarians recently conducted a labour market study suggesting the province would need 100 veterinarians per year for the next five years to meet growing demand.

“It’s like trying to stop a tidal wave with a handkerchief,” she said.

With some new veterinarians on the way, WAVES hopes to restructure its emergency care team within the next three to six months, but the focus will be on making sure they don’t burn out, Branter said.

“This is done with a heavy heart, and we are going to come back in a way that’s positive for all parties involved, as soon as we can make sure we’re making sure that our people are being taken care of.”

WAVES is still accepting referrals for specialty services, while Central Victoria Veterinary Hospital remains open for 24/7 care.

Central Island Veterinary Emergency Hospital in Nanaimo also told CHEK News that it is the only 24/7 vet clinic available north of Langford, and remains able to provide veterinary care in an emergency.

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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