A cooperative group of veterinary clinics in the East Kootenay has been formed in an effort to maintain emergency services in the region.
The partnership has been dubbed the East Kootenay Veterinary Group (EKVG), with clinics in Cranbrook, Kimberley, Fernie, Invermere and Creston working together for after-hours emergencies.
The clinics will share the demand for emergency services, with the majority of emergency calls being taken in Cranbrook since there are three clinics. Sometimes, however, it will require animal owners to travel to Creston, Invermere or Fernie.
Jeff Cooper, Practice Manager with Tanglefoot Veterinary Services, says that the cooperative was formed out of necessity after several challenging years for the veterinary community.
“About a year ago, we started taking emergency calls full-time, and it quickly became clear that it was not sustainable,” Cooper explained, adding that there has been a shortage in veterinary staff across the region. “Our teams were at risk of burnout. So we sat down with representatives from clinics across the region, and that’s where this cooperative was formed. It has been a really good collaborative effort from all clinics.”
He says that the level of service and demand for service has increased exponentially, especially over the past two years of the pandemic.
“As many of you are aware, the past couple years have been extremely challenging for the veterinary community,” Tanglefoot Veterinary Services said in an online post. “Globally, the veterinary profession has been faced with serious crisis and we have experienced a shortage of veterinary professionals firsthand in the Kootenays.
“On top of this, the local veterinary community has been faced with an overwhelming increase in demand for both emergent and non-emergent veterinary care. This demand, coupled with the shortage of veterinarians and veterinary technicians, has resulted in burnout and mental and physical exhaustion amongst many veterinary professionals in the area.”
Clinics in the region have come together to form the EKVG after “careful consideration”, as stated in a post that each clinic has shared.
“As a group, we strive to achieve a sustainable and reliable after hours network,” reads the post. “This partnership is a fluid arrangement that may evolve as the needs of the community change. The call sharing is based on available staff at each clinic, with clinics with more staff offering more coverage and clinics with smaller staff numbers offering less coverage.”
Cooper explained that emergent calls will be triaged by a registered vet tech, who will help clients determine whether emergency service is required and if so, direct them to the clinic that is on call.
“When a call comes in after hours at any of the clinics, they will get forwarded to a triage service that is answered by a registered, knowledgeable veterinary technician,” Cooper said. “The technician will be able to determine whether the patient requires immediate emergency care, or if it is something that can wait until the morning, for example.”
If it is an emergency, the on call veterinarian will then be given all details of the call and arrival times so as to make the process smoother.
The group says that the majority of emergencies will be dealt with in Cranbrook, however sometimes travel to Creston, Fernie or Invermere might be required. The other alternative, which is what the group is trying to avoid, is travel to a larger city like Calgary – which is four hours away.
“We also know that the majority of our clients are understanding of the current and ongoing veterinary challenges, and will be appreciative of this group effort to maintain emergency veterinary services within our region,” Cooper said.
The EKVG encourages all residents with animals to have a plan in place if emergency transport is required, especially when it comes to equine and bovine clients because farm calls might not be available.
“We are confident that this partnership will succeed in maintaining a consistent level of veterinary emergency care that is imperative for the health and well-being of our veterinary community as well as those who rely on the services we offer.”
Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.