GARDEN CITY, Idaho — According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the average number of appointments booked from 2019 to 2020 increased by 4.5% and then increased by 6.5% during the same period in 2021.
While demand for pet care has increased, the number of licensed veterinarians has not and most practices aren’t operating how they were before the pandemic
WestVet 24/7 Animal Emergency & Specialty Center says the population growth plus the number of people who got new pets have been challenging when dealing with a decrease in staff.
Over the last 18 months, WestVet says they are up around 40% to 50% in terms of caseload. Combined with a national shortage of vet staff, the critical community resource is feeling the pressure.
“We’ve seen an increased number of positions we’ve needed to try to fill but also a shortage of applicants to fill those positions,” Medical Director Dr. Dan Hume said.
According to their website, WestVet has over 30 open positions right now.
“We were probably at our near capacity for the profession at the time when COVID hit,” Dr. Hume said. He added the Treasure V growth has added nearly 40% to 50%, new patients, to their clinic. When combined with a shortage of staff, workflows have been impacted and strained.
“You took a system that was at near capacity then and put more patients into that workflow. I think there's a number of people that are in our profession that are burnt out and suffering from compassion fatigue and all of the other things that go along with a high-stress job,” Dr. Hume said.
So, if you take your pet, you’ll be asked to wait in your car and they have options for owners while they care for your animal. Dr. Hume says the wait time just depends on the time of day. Sometimes it can be quick, other times you could be waiting for hours.
“We have had to go client light with our lobbies so we’re not allowing clients in our building mostly for the safety of not only the public but for our team's members because we can’t afford to lose people because of sickness and that’s translated to alerted workflows and longer wait times for our clients,” Dr. Hume said. “I think we’re trying everything we can and we want to be able to help people with their pets but sometimes it's taking us a little bit longer than it may have in the past.”