Are you open?
I can’t believe that is my question this month. Last month’s article on freeze-dried diets seems light-years ago. But to answer the question — yes. We are still open at this point but we, and veterinary practices across the state and country, are practicing differently and our protocols are changing almost on a daily basis based on recommendations from our public health officials and scientists who are working tirelessly to keep us all safe.
Let me share with you why we are open here. In West Virginia, a veterinarian has been considered an essential business/profession. We are public health servants who strive to control disease in animals in order to keep their humans safe. We keep livestock and farms safe in order to keep the food chain productive and functioning. These reasons have always been enough to keep veterinarians working as a profession. Initially, the West Virginia coronavirus peak was predicted for early May, but now state officials are saying the state has peaked. For weeks we have been watching this trend and implementing new protocols in order to keep up. Veterinarians, as a profession, will push on and never stop doing more to treat and to protect our patients, clients and our beloved staff in order to continue practicing up to and through that point.
This is what many open veterinary hospitals all over the country are doing to continue to provide services that are always in need. The biggest change is keeping clients in their cars in the parking lot. Our smart phones have been on overdrive. This curb-service brings the animal into the hospital by a technician using protective attire, and we then call or FaceTime to do our exam and go over diagnostic and treatment recommendations, all without our clients leaving their cars. Videos and pictures are digitally flying back and forth as we try to find a new normal communication pathway. To lighten the mood, a few times, I have let pets get up close and personal with my phone like a 3D experience. It is silly but it helps.
Many hospitals have started scheduling wellness and routine, non-essential procedures one to two months out. That’s nail trims and anal glands, to name a few, for those keeping track. Elective surgeries such as spays, castrations and routine dentistry are being pushed back to keep people home unless they absolutely need to come out. Now, sick exams and needed oral and orthopedic surgeries will still be performed when needed for pet health and comfort. If people are in doubt about the essential nature of their pet’s needs they can simply call and talk to a veterinarian.
We are checking employee temperatures daily and decreasing the number of staff, including doctors, who are inside our buildings each day. I’m sure veterinarians are lonely for their teammates and the crazy buzz/pace of the hospitals but social distancing has to be practiced by us all, all day, every day, until this crisis is over. Protective personal equipment is available and required for all personnel. We wipe and disinfect all surfaces all day to keep the, ever-present chance of contamination from occurring.
But will this be enough for us as a profession to keep being able to provide services to our companion animal patients? I hope, but I don’t know what the next few weeks will bring. People need their pets now more than ever. I know I need my crew. For some people in quarantine, their pet(s) may be all they have. We need to protect them for as long as we can while continuing to do that in the safest manner possible. That is our goal. Stay safe/wash those paws!!