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Pet Healthcare After the Pandemic: A Veterinary Update

On our recent Facebook Live video, Veterinary Referral Center of Central Oregon veterinary dermatologist Dr. Jen Bentley talked with veterinary surgeon Dr. Mauricio Dujowich about pet healthcare in a pandemic, and the state of veterinary medicine now. Throughout the nation, pet owners are having difficulty scheduling timely appointments for their pets while pet emergency facilities are experiencing wait times of up to 12 hours.  In some instances, pet emergency facilities have had to limit or divert cases.  We have even started to see pet emergency services be shut down entirely.  While VRCCO has doubled its staff and has plans to increase its physical space in the coming year, the fact remains that there is a nationwide veterinary crisis. Since recording this show, The Oregonian published an article on the challenges of the industry.

What does that mean for Central Oregon pets and their people? The following outlines some of the challenges, and offers a bit of light.

Watch the Pet Healthcare Discussion

Qualified Veterinary Employees Are in Short Supply

Although the veterinary healthcare industry was hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions, the employment crisis for veterinary healthcare workers started well before the pandemic. Dr. Dujowich says, despite ample veterinary training programs, it has been and remains tough to recruit and maintain qualified vets, techs, and assistants. One reason is, after they receive training, not all veterinary healthcare workers find they are suited to the job.

Another issue is that many people trained in the field choose to work part-time rather than full-time. Thirdly, it’s tough for smaller towns to compete with the hiring bonuses, salaries, and attractions of larger cities. The Bend, Oregon area is fortunate in that it attracts outdoor enthusiasts and people looking for the Central Oregon lifestyle. Still, the hiring challenge persists.

Dr. Dujowich said that when COVID hit, he and the staff at VRCCO assumed the hospital would see a dramatic drop in caseload. They made an emergency plan to keep the new business afloat with fewer patients. As it turns out, caseload skyrocketed, and not just for VRCCO. Across the country, visits to vet ER’s rose 100%. VRCCO took steps to shore up their professional staff rather than cull it. As a result, staff has doubled in size in the past year.

Good News: Pet Adoption Is Up

That pet adoption increased and humane societies emptied out during the pandemic is, indeed, a good thing. Many people were confined to their homes, and turned to the companionship of a pet for solace. As Dr. Dujowich noted, prospective pet parents wanted some company that wouldn’t give them COVID. With the uptick in pet adoption, however, came a rise in the need for veterinary care.

More Good News: VRCCO Is Three Years Old & Growing Strong

This May, VRCCO celebrated its third year of service. They’ve continued to hire top-drawer talent even as big-city hospitals cut staff and even eliminate ER services. Dr. Dujowich admitted, it’s been hard to keep up with demand. He credits his dedicated team with being committed over-achievers. Sometimes, he says, it’s hard to get them to go home. “It inspires me to work harder.” He adds, it’s always been the mission of VRCCO to build a veterinary practice that values the health and wellbeing of its staff as well as their beloved pet clientele and their pet parents.

To that end, Dr. Dujowich and the team continue to look for ways to improve vet care and the hospital. An expansion is in the works, and training is always ongoing. With emergency care, veterinary oncology, and advanced imaging, VRCCO has become intrinsic to veterinary healthcare in Central Oregon. In fact, with appointment shortages, pet patients from Portland, Salem, Northern California, and beyond have been referred to Bend. Everybody’s working their butt off, says Dr. Dujowich. And all that hard work is appreciated, by pets and pet parents alike.

“It’s the reason we started. We want our employees to be happy, our pets to be happy, and our pet parents to be happy.”

Learn more about 24/7 full-spectrum immediate care and other specialty veterinary services here.