Pet patients turned away amid veterinarian shortage

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) – Emergency veterinarians across Richmond are dwindling sparking a high demand at pet hospitals.

Some pet parents are being turned away and referred to other hospitals outside city limits, and other hospitals have scaled back their hours due to a vet shortage.

“You’re seeing a combination of increased patient load – I think that’s probably gotten a little bit better, but also declined in the number of veterinarians working in the emergency service,” Alyssa Thompson, associate veterinarian at Cary Street Veterinary Hospital said.

She says being a vet has become more challenging since the pandemic.

“Starting prior to the pandemic, [we] had like five or six active, fully staffed emergency facilities and now [Richmond is] down to really one that I would say is fully staffed 24/7, all week long,” Thompson said.

She said the Virginia Veterinary Center on Cary Street has been able to maintain nurses and doctors. Although fully staffed, they are often at capacity forcing them to lock their doors and refer patients elsewhere.

“There have been times where we’ve actually had to send them up to Fredericksburg our out to Charlottesville just because there isn’t the availability to see them in the city,” Thompson said.

Long hours and burnout now sending vets out of the office and into new careers. Thompson helps out at local ERs when she can.

“And you feel bad. You’re like I want to see these pets, but there are times I’m literally the only ER doctor working. I can physically only see so many cases at one time,” she said.

According to the Department of Health Professions, Virginia saw a 2.6% (116) increase in licensed vets at the end of 2021, but that isn’t enough.

“If the shifts are more conducive to actually being able to go home and spend time with the family I think that can help improve upon getting more doctors back into veterinarian emergency medicine specifically,” Thompson said.

One vet at VVC told NBC12 that this is a nationwide issue.

Emergency hospitals are working together to keep track of who is accepting patients. You’re urged to call ahead to see if the vet hospital is accepting patients. If not, they will refer you to one that is.

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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