New walk-in clinic bridges gap for pet owners as N.B. sees vet shortage

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New walk-in clinic bridges gap for pet owners as New Brunswick sees vet shortage
WATCH: A new urgent care and walk-in clinic for pets has opened in Quispamsis, N.B. As Nathalie Sturgeon reports, it’s filing in an important for pet owners who can’t see their regular vet or don’t even have one. – Feb 21, 2024

An emergency with your pet can be ruff, but a new walk-in and urgent care clinic in Quispamsis, N.B. is hoping to bridge the gap for many pet owners in the region.

There is a significant shortage of veterinarians and technicians in the province, which can mean long waits for appointments or pets going without veterinary care.

“We’ll have anywhere between 10 to 30 job ads for veterinarians or veterinarian (technicians) at any given time … and it can take anywhere between six, eight, nine months — a year almost — to get those positions filled,” said Dr. Nicole Jewett, registrar with the New Brunswick Veterinary Medical Association.

She said the more options that clients have, the better.

In more rural areas, veterinary care is difficult to find, she explained. The northern region is particularly underserved, Jewett said.

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“There are certain regions that the access may not be as easy, if there are not as many veterinarians, because the most rural areas where you are may have less options than when you’re urban,” she said.

She said there are also not enough spaces for veterinarians to be trained, with only five schools in the whole country.

Pets can be seen at the Quispamsis Urgent Care and Walk-In Clinic in the event they can’t get into their vet or don’t have one. Nathalie Sturgeon / Global News

“We need about three to four per cent more veterinarians than what we currently graduate,” she said in an interview. “A lot of the Canadian jurisdictions have lobbied the government to get more funding for more seats.”

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Jewett said a more specific study is coming on New Brunswick and what is happening in the province in terms of the stock of veterinarians and the associated professionals who work in the clinics and hospitals.

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“We likely have a need for more, but we need solid data to determine the exact number,” she said.

It takes about eight years to become a veterinarian and while the competition is high, there aren’t enough seats to accommodate all who might want to take on the significant task of veterinary medicine.

“We also need to increase infrastructure, the colleges need to be bigger, because they have to be able to accommodate a larger class size,” she said. “We’re talking major renovations or building a new one.”

But all these gaps are things Dr. Ivan Zakharenkov is hoping to help fill with his walk-in and urgent care clinic.

“Instead of going into full-on emergency, they can see veterinarians here that will see them, no appointment — it is a walk-in — and essentially same day so we’re an extension of the primary care vet,” he said.

All records are sent to the primary care veterinarian after the appointment, he explained, to ensure the pet has some continuity, even without seeing their regular physician.

The price point for the clinic fits between a regular vet fee and the emergency hospital, Zakharenkov said, making it a more affordable option.

Both vets say people should check on veterinarian availability before getting a pet, especially more exotic pets like rodents, birds and reptiles. Nathalie Sturgeon / Global News

“The frustrating factor that we find with a lot of pet owners is obviously you would want to go to your regular veterinarian that you have a relationship with but if the only option after that is to go to the emergency that at times can be expensive and with long wait times, this is great for them,” he said.

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The clinic guarantees a patient will be seen within an hour of arrival, otherwise, they discount the fee.

Zakharenkov said the clinic is an important piece of the puzzle given what the landscapes for veterinarians look like now.

“There is a tremendous shortage of veterinarians right now,” he said. “By 2030, it is expected in North America, we’ll be short 41,000 veterinarians and we’re not producing them fast enough.”

It is a good buffer between going to the emergency vet, he said.

Zakharenkov said the shared-risk model of the clinic has produced a lot of interest in having them in different parts of the province and even throughout the country. It means those who work in the clinic share ownership in it.

Construction has begun on a new walk-in clinic and urgent care centre in Fredericton, he said, adding a third to the province, with the other in Dieppe.

Both vets said it is important to check on veterinarian availability in the area before taking on a pet, especially for more exotic pets like rodents, birds and reptiles.

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