Saturday, April 1, 2023

Shortage of Veterinarians, Northern BC Lack of after hours clinic, putting pets at risk

BC plans to double the number of seats for subsidized students at Saskatoon college but that’s not enough to meet demand; doctor feeling stressed

Pet owners, farmers, ranchers and animal rescue groups are feeling the pinch of a provincewide shortage of veterinary services and the problem is expected to worsen in northern BC as Prince George attends a 24-hour, 365-day-a-year Lack of emergency call facility. To deal with veterinary situations after hours.

Overworked veterinarians are struggling to meet patient demand and the city has lost nearly 25 percent of its veterinarians in the past year.

Ben Baumann established his Victoria Street practice, Birchwood Veterinary Clinic, about a year and a half ago and he is its only vet, sharing the patient workload with three veterinary technicians. Trying to balance the demands of his work with his home life as the father of three young children, he is feeling stressed by being mindless.

“I don’t know how to fix it, I’ve been at it for 12 years now and as long as I’ve been a member of the profession, it’s getting progressively worse,” said Baumann, 41. “The fix for us at Prince George is an emergency facility, but you need probably six doctors and 12 technicians for 24 hours (clinics) 365 days a year and we can’t find a single one to work for us.

“People are leaving Prince George because of that situation. New grads don’t want to serve after hours. There’s no easy solution because you can’t get more people just by going. You need more money to get them here.” Can’t offer because they don’t want to work without any facilities.”

In the absence of a veterinary center after an hour similar to facilities run by corporate entities in Kelowna, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, the number of veterinarians serving the city, including part-time, has grown to about 15. For after-hours on-call services to meet demand, Prince George veterinarians are taking turns answering calls. For pet owners who are already customers at a certain practice, after-hours services are available. But for patients without a connection to a local veterinary clinic, their options are limited.

“People have a misconception; they think we have people in our clinics 24 hours a day, but there’s no one here,” Baumann said. “You put Patents in the hospital and they sit in the kennel all night alone. If it’s very important, there’s always euthanasia, or you get them in your car and go to Kelowna and hope that They won’t cross the road. It’s bad.”

At Birchwood, like other clinics in the city, appointments are booked months in advance and no new patients are accepted until an existing list of appointments has been viewed.

“For pet owners, I can imagine how frustrating this is, so we always recommend that someone on a waiting list to get themselves on the waiting list because that’s how we can really draw from names. If we are ready to open,” said Birchwood manager Mel Bauman. “We are doing a one-doctor practice and we are closed to (new) clients because we are trying to catch everyone.

“We opened last year with 650 on our waiting list. We need a facility and we need more veterinarians. All these people are in this situation because they love animals and we want them to be healthy so they can continue to exercise. They’re all working so hard and so there may be extra hours, they’re just tired.”

Dr. Baumann said he had chronic abdominal pain, which he attributed to the stress of running his clinic.

Five other local clinics that share on-call veterinary duties with Birchwood – College Heights Veterinary Clinic, Hart Family Veterinary Clinic, Murdoch Veterinary Clinic, Ospica Animal Hospital, and Prince George Veterinary Hospital – have received Prince George Formed a consortium known as the Veterinary-Hour Care Group. He highlighted his concerns about not having an after-hours emergency center in a presentation at the Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting last week.

In April the province announced it was providing $10.7 million to double the number of subsidized seats for students at Western College for Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, from 20 to 40. The 2019 labor market survey conducted by the government’s Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training is estimated at Rs. There will be an annual shortage of 100 veterinarians across the province to keep up with population growth and replace those who have retired or have left their practices due to burnout.

Saskatoon, where Bowman completed veterinary school, is the only regional college serving western Canada and due to a lack of seats in its program, Alberta opened its own veterinary college at the University of Calgary in 2018, which only caters to Alberta residents. accepts. The U of Sea program churns out 50 graduates each year and is expected to double to 100 over the next three years, with additional funding to expand the program announced last month by the Alberta government. In Canada, the only other veterinary schools are in Guelph, Quebec City and Charlottetown, PEI, and they also accept only regional students for subsidized admission to the program.

The shortage of veterinarians is being felt especially in the more remote and less populated areas of the province. Prince Rupert, the largest city in northwestern BC with a population of about 12,000 people, has no full-time veterinarian and is only served by locals who come to see patients from other cities. Bauman, who graduated from Saskatoon in 2010, was one position for 3 and a half years before setting up his practice.

Melanie Bauman said the federal government can help reduce the shortage by making it easier to establish practices for veterinarians from other countries to come to Canada. Foreign doctors are required to rewrite and pass their qualifying examinations before they can be issued a licence. He said the shortage of technicians performing critical nursing duties to assist doctors in animal clinics is also hindering existing practices across the country.

“The government has guaranteed two years (the next two academic years), which is great, but it would be nice to have some kind of draw to get them north,” Mel Baumann said. “When we are asking new grads to come north, they have to do (on-call after-hours shifts) and work 36 hours a day. Or you can go south and not have to.

“The lack of veterinary medicine is Canada’s problem. If you look at other provinces, it’s all hard for them, and Alberta really recognized it by opening a school.

An animal health technology program exists at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, but it states that the demand for their services far exceeds the number of annual graduates. Having a similar technology program at the College of New Caledonia or UNBC may help retain students in the North, but it will take years to have an effect on increasing the number of trained professional workforces.

The vet shortage extends to the farming and animal husbandry communities in the region, which are served by only a small number of mobile doctors.

“Farm animals no longer have veterinarians in the North,” said Ben Baumann. “Dr. (Jodie) Greene does her best and Westwinds (the mobile veterinary clinic) is traveling throughout northern BC trying to help. In Vanderhof, there is now a person (at Nechako Valley Animal Health Services) because The vet clinic is closed. She does horses but I don’t know if she does cows or not.”

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