Okanagan veterinarian shortage creating appointment backlog – Okanagan

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A current vet shortage in the Okanagan is forcing animal clinics to change the way they offer services. With too few veterinarians to go around, pet patients, in many cases, have to wait for months to get an appointment.

In the past five years, this region has been dealing with a vet shortage. The long hours, the demand and the small number of veterinarian students have all played a factor in the current shortage. The pandemic has also impacted the way vet clinics and hospitals operate.

“The pandemic definitely has made it worse because everybody got their pandemic puppy or kitten so that has increased the amount of work,” said Dr. Marco Veenis with the Okanagan Veterinarian Hospital.

“Plus, pandemic measures have also taken a toll on veterinarians. Regularly, you’ll lose staff because they have to isolate cause they’re stuck with covid.”

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The Carrington Animal Hospital in West Kelowna recently lost its full-time vet, leaving them with only one who is part-time. They’ve had to modify their daily services and been forced to send pets elsewhere.

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“We’d love to help them all but we just can’t. We have no resources on those days we don’t have a vet. And when we do have the vet, it is so packed full and busy and we definitely try to leave those open spaces for sick pets but they get filled up too so quickly so yeah it’s hard,” said Holly Oaks practice manager of the Carrington Animal Hospital.

Oaks says angry calls from pet owners are becoming more frequent. They tell clients they are doing their best to accommodate but they don’t want it to become an excuse.

“It sounds like that when you’re saying that all the time. At the end of the day, if we had the choice to have another vet in here right now, we would,” Oaks said.

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Fewer vets mean fewer appointments. Clinics do not have a lot of walk-in appointments available and some places are already booking clients into October.

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“Many, many clinics now have waiting lists for regular appointments, non-urgent appointments sometimes it can take a couple of weeks before people can get in,” said Veenis.

“I know clinics that have actually put a stop on accepting new clients and that of course causes lots of problems for people who are desperate to find help for their pet.”

Veenis says the BC Veterinarians are working with the provincial government in an effort to create more education opportunities. If they can increase the number of seats available for students, more vets will enter the workforce within the next few years.

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