PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Throughout the pandemic, staff shortages have been rife, especially in the restaurant industry. People may not realize that the veterinary field is also experiencing something similar, creating long wait times for pet owners and pushing vets to the point of burnout.
Jennifer Fraser’s new puppy, Simba, had a urinary tract infection when we met her at Rainbow Veterinary Hospital in Darlington, Beaver County. She said she called several emergency vets in the area to get a response she didn’t expect.
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“They all said, basically, that unless your pet died they couldn’t see it and should call in the morning,” Fraser said.
Thankfully, Rainbow had a spot available due to a last minute cancellation, which Dr Amanda Fultz says is rare these days.
“We don’t have regular appointments until the end of November,” said Dr Fultz.
On top of that, Dr Fultz says Rainbow’s 24-hour emergency department must either turn away some of the less severe patients or make them wait hours before they can be brought in. Dr Fultz says pet owners can wait up to six hours. before their dog or cat is seen in the emergency room.
“We recommend in these cases that a patient try to seek veterinary care elsewhere,” said Dr Fultz.
She says people are sometimes sent as far as Akron, Ohio, or Morgantown, West Virginia, which Colette Eule says she would have done if she had to have done so after finding a large laceration on her chest. Harper dog.
“Our first response was we called her vet where she is going for routine care, explained the situation to her and they said they unfortunately couldn’t get her in,” Eule said.
After calling several vets within an hour and a half of Pittsburgh, Eule found one. She eventually joined Butler Veterinary Associates, and Harper is now healed and healthy.
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While many people have had pets during the pandemic, Dr Nicole Palumbo of Butler Veterinary says the main problem is understaffing, especially in emergency rooms.
“When the pandemic hit we weren’t allowed to have normal appointments, and that posed a huge problem for the future because all those vaccine appointments and everything were put on the back burner,” Dr Palumbo said.
While many general practice vets are taking appointments now, Palumbo says some still have reduced hours and fewer staff, causing burnout, especially for vets who work in emergency rooms.
Therefore, Dr. Palumbo leaves the ER side to focus solely on general medicine in a completely different clinic.
” I’m exhausted. This is the most important thing, ”said Dr Palumbo. “Every day we get calls that we probably turn down to at least 20-50 people a day and it’s disheartening because you want to help them and people give you horrible reviews.”
This is why vets say being kind is so important.
“We are finding because of the amount of compassion fatigue that is experienced, the amount of burnout that there is a high suicide rate,” Dr. Fultz said.
Meanwhile, back at Rainbow Animal Hospital, Fraser breathes a sigh of relief that her new puppy Simba is in good hands and looks to the future.
“I have a new appointment for him and it’s not until Oct. 16,” Fraser said.
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While vets like Dr Fultz and Dr Palumbo don’t know what the future holds for the industry, they say the industry is doing what it can to recruit and retain better paid vets, promoting the ‘work-life balance and providing support.