Letter to Pet Parents From 8 Local Clinics Doesn't Tell the Whole Story
Local veterinary clinics unable to continue on-call after-hours services – but why?
Pet parents who’ve entrusted their pets’ care to eight local veterinary clinics received a templated email en masse on November 1 that sent many into a panic.
The email, titled ‘Information On Services Provided Outside of Regular Business Hours: Updated Emergency Services Procedure’ notified recipients that effective November 15th, if a pet suffers an unexpected emergency outside of regular office hours and requires in-person care, they will no longer have access to it in Grey and Bruce.
The email explained:
“With the advancement of Telemedicine virtual consultation, you will continue to be able to speak with a trusted team of RVTs and Veterinarians through the Smart Vet service available to all pet owners 24/7. They will help determine if your pet requires an in-person emergency visit or not.”
The notice states, in bold lettering:
“If your pet does require in-person care, it will be necessary to travel outside of the Grey Bruce area.”
The email appears to have been sent to pet parents from eight local clinics:
Southampton Pet Hospital
Port Elgin Veterinary Clinic
Sunset Strip Veterinary Clinic
Owen Sound Veterinary Clinic
Grey Bruce Pet Hospital
North Heritage Animal Hospital
Wiarton Animal Hospital
Sauble Beach Pet Hospital
Despite some speculation, these clinics do not share a common owner. This notice was not a corporate directive or decision, and these clinics do not all belong to a larger vet clinic network.
These independent clinics formed a call group (that has grown in size over the last few years) to share after-hours on-call responsibilities. They seem to be the last clinics in our region forced to close overnight to small animal emergency care.
Speculation that it’s a purely financial decision doesn’t hold water, either. Local clinics gain no new revenue or business by referring after-hours emergencies elsewhere. And I don’t know about you, but none of the animal lovers I know who went into animal care did it for the money.
Here’s what we know for sure:
As with nursing and medical doctors, veterinary care in Ontario is in a state of crisis with a vet shortage, extreme stress, and mental health issues wreaking havoc in the space.
The shortage of skilled veterinary workers is hitting rural communities north of Toronto particularly hard, and we face additional challenges in recruiting people to live in Grey Bruce.
The crisis threatens to worsen as Grey Bruce vets approach retirement without new recruits to pass the torch.
Let’s look deeper at what this change means for local pet parents and the veterinary professionals who provide them care, what’s driving it, and what you can do about it.