It has been 5 months since a public health emergency was declared in British Columbia and it has been as long since we have seen or spoken to you without our faces masked.
Bar none, every single person reading this email has been affected by the pandemic; personally, medically, financially or mentally. The pandemic has taken a toll and we have all had to adjust and do life a little differently. Many of us have felt the frustration and impatience from wanting life to return to ‘normal’. Professionally, I look forward to not having to wear and speak behind a mask 8 hours a day, to have a new pet owner in the room to show them how to handle and socialize their new pet and to give a client a hug after they have had to say goodbye to their pet. Personally, I look forward to my children being able to learn again in class amongst their peers. The only ones whom I can say are enjoying the changes to daily life is my dog who loves the extra company at home and my cat who can now yowl and demand food throughout the entire day as someone always seems to be in the kitchen to comply.
We, at Amherst, wanted to take the opportunity to reach out, to share with you our journey in this pandemic so far and how we see our practice continuing to function for the foreseeable future:
In early March we started following reports about increasing numbers of cases of COVID-19 in the Lower Mainland and by March 17 a public health emergency was declared in BC. People were asked to work from home, to socially distance outside of the people you lived with and many business sectors were asked to close. Although veterinary hospitals were not declared an essential service until March 26, Amherst remained open because we believed that our role in continuing to provide health care to our pets was necessary. For those first few weeks, staff came to work because we believed in the value of what we do despite struggling with our personal fears of coming to work and becoming infected with COVID-19 or bringing it home to our families.
To maximize safety for our clients and staff and to do our part in bending the curve of the pandemic we decreased the congestion of people within the hospital by reducing the number of veterinarians per day from 5 to 3, asked our clients to stay outside while the pet was examined and increased the length of the appointments to decrease client overlap. During phase 1 and into the early parts of phase 2 our veterinary association gave guidelines to veterinary hospitals to suspend all appointments and surgeries unless they were life threatening or urgent issues.
In June we were able to once again schedule wellness exams, vaccine appointments and preventive surgeries such as spays, neuters and dental cleanings. Many have asked when we will allow clients to come into the clinic again for appointments. Unfortunately we will not be making any changes to this policy until we see what the fall and winter bring in terms of COVID-19 numbers in the Lower Mainland. We are still at reduced staffing and reduced appointment capacity and to maximize our ability to safely help the pets and to keep our staff safe, we need to continue to decrease the flow of traffic in and out of the hospital.
We want to help your pet and we do not want to have to turn sick pets away. Along with seeing sick pets we are also working through a backlog of 3 months of pets who are delayed with their preventive health care and vaccines. Due to all these reasons we are finding that we are at capacity on a daily basis. When we turn your pets away, it is not because we do not want to help you. We do. We are in this field because of our passion for the well being of animals but we also want to be able to care for your pets to the best of our abilities. If our staff are overwhelmed with medical cases and stretched to the limit, you are not getting the best quality care that your pet deserves. Our technicians and assistants juggle between x rays, blood collection, anesthetics and nursing care throughout the day and our receptionists are tireless in answering the phones and attending to your requests for medication refills, appointments, general questions. Our vets routinely work through their lunch hours and stay late to squeeze in the extra urgent case or return that phone call. We too all balance this workload with homeschooling our children, caring for our elderly, having to buy groceries and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.
Until Dr. Bonnie Henry says it is safe to do so, it will not be business as usual. We continue to monitor the situation in BC and will make adjustments to our protocols based on science and recommendations from our veterinary association and our provincial health officer.
As we navigate our way through this pandemic we ask for our clients to please help do your part to ensure best access for all our pet patients:
1. Please be patient with the front staff and when calling into the clinic. Our phone lines are very busy and we are trying to help you as efficiently as we can.
2. We want to help your pet and we are trying to triage cases as best we can but most days we find ourselves at capacity shortly after the start of the day. If we can not help your pet as urgently as it needs, then we will direct you on how to receive that care.
3. Our veterinarians are busy, we prioritize our sick cases and our scheduled appointments. We will always call a client with lab results. If you have a question to discuss that is not pertaining to a recent visit, we may not be able to get back to you for a few days as our priority it to our current sick pets.
4. If you have a sick pet, please do not wait until they are really sick to book an appointment as we may not be able to see you as urgently as your pet needs.
5. We have never and continue to not charge for cancelled our missed appointments but know that your missed appointment meant that some other sick pet could not be seen and had to be directed elsewhere causing increased stress for a fellow pet owner and pet. Please call us to cancel as early as possible if you no longer need your appointment.
6. Kindness does go a long way.
This is uncharted territory for all of us. Amherst Veterinary Hospital has been serving the Vancouver community for over 33 years and we want to get through this pandemic along side you, our community.
We are so proud of our staff and thankful to them for their tireless efforts and compassion. Thank you also to all of our clients that have provided us with words of encouragement, we wish you continued health.
Dr. Loretta Yuen and the Amherst management team