16 May 2022

'Increased pressure' for pet medical services as ED pauses walk-ins

| Claire Fenwicke
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Canberra's Animal Referral Hospital's emergency department

Canberra’s Animal Referral Hospital’s emergency department is temporarily closed due to staffing shortages. Photo: ARH Facebook.

Animals needing urgent medical care will have to travel to Gungahlin following the temporary closure of Pialligo’s after hours emergency department.

The Animal Referral Hospital (ARH) said its ED would not be accepting after hours walk-ins until 30 June.

“Due to staffing shortages impacting veterinary services, we are temporarily closed,” it said in a statement on Facebook.

“ARH day specialist hospital will continue to operate as normal.

“We will be continually assessing the situation and will advise when the emergency department will again be open for consults.”

A spokesperson said the emergency department was open and new walk ins could arrive between 8am and 4pm.

“During the night the hospital will be tending to the patients that have come in from the day, which is why they don’t have capacity for further emergencies at night,” they said.

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The Canberra Veterinary Emergency Services (CVES) centre in Gungahlin is the only other option for after-hours care.

CVES business manager Claire De Candia said the team was under “increased pressure” due to growing workloads across all areas.

“Such closures have affected our reception team, who now have to deal with the increased amount of phone calls and enquiries coming through, and increased amount of visitors coming to the clinic,” she said.

“It also has had a huge impact on our nurse and vet teams who are now serving the whole ACT and surrounds, which includes an increased consultation load, as well as procedures, hospitalisations and major emergency surgeries.”

The CVES was also impacted by COVID-related shortages and the nationwide veterinary staffing shortages.

Veterinarian and dog at Canberra Veterinary Emergency Services in Gungahlin

Canberra Veterinary Emergency Services in Gungahlin is still accepting walk-in patients. Photo: CVES Facebook.

Ms De Candia said she felt for her colleagues at ARH and understood the temporary closure wouldn’t have been an easy decision to make.

“We don’t have enough staff to meet the demands,” she said.

“CVES is very conscious of compassion fatigue and burnout affecting our industry. We are now facing a dilemma of having to meet a demand we are not able to satisfy, and looking after our staff members has always been and will continue to be our priority.

“According to latest research in the industry, there are 2179 patients per veterinarian [nationwide] compared to only 206 patients per human doctor.

“Considering specifics of the local situation in Canberra, we estimate the statistics for your veterinarians are even more rough.”

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Pet owners in the Capital and surrounds are urged to see their local GP vet for non-critical or non life-threatening conditions, such as skin conditions, ear problems and chronic ongoing issues.

“This will greatly alleviate the pressure on the team and visitors,” Ms De Candia said.

“As an emergency clinic we work based on a triage system, which means that non-critical cases being a low priority will face a multiple hour wait before being able to see a vet.

“To put it in perspective, imagine having only one human emergency department that is forced to serve the whole ACT community.”

Ms De Candia said extended wait times should be expected no matter the time of day, and she urged the community to be respectful and patient.

“It doesn’t change the fact we work as hard as possible to help as many people and animals as we can,” she said.

“We kindly ask the public to please be kind and understanding when calling or presenting to our clinic.”

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The staff at this place are extremely rude and the place is a rip off constantly trying to get you to pay for unnecessary treatments , I rather drive the extra 30 mins to gungarlin. At least the staff are friendly and don’t try to rip you off

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