As of June 1, all veterinary clinics in the Cowichan Valley shut down their after-hour emergency services and are now referring night-time clients to emergency clinics outside of the area.
Sue Lauman, office manager at Prevost Animal Hospital, said that Prevost and other local vet clinics strive to meet the needs of both clients and patients.
But she said they are struggling to have the necessary doctors and technicians available after regular office hours to provide after-hours services.
“It’s a nation-wide problem and many veterinary hospitals across Canada are experiencing the same staff shortages,” Lauman said.
“Our primary concern is to see animals get proper care, but we just can’t guarantee that at night when clinics sometimes have just one doctor and one technician available. The emergency hospitals are better equipped with staff for night-time emergencies and animals will get better treatment this way.”
Pet owners in need of after-hours assistance are now being directed to the 24-hour Central Island Veterinary Emergency Hospital in Nanaimo, the VCA Canada Central Victoria Veterinary Hospital and Langford’s WAVES, which provides emergency services for animals until midnight.
The decision is not sitting well with some local pet owners.
In a letter to the editor, C. Miller said that for pet owners, it’s the equivalent of closing the emergency department at the Cowichan District Hospital and the nurses helpline after 5 p.m. and on weekends and diverting people to Victoria General Hospital’s emergency department instead.
“Driving the Malahat or driving at night, sometimes in winter conditions, will not be an option for some people,” Miller said.
“This is a difficult situation as many Cowichan Valley pet owners have no other option. There is no post-surgical after-hours back up or phone advice for surgeries in which pet owners may have paid thousands of dollars. On holidays, there could be up to three days that the offices are closed. For pet owners who love their animals, this is bad news.”