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Okanagan vet hospitals struggle with staff shortages amid Omicron wave

Dr. Oz with a patient at the Rose Valley hospital. Rose Valley / Facebook

The surging wave of the Omicron variant has led to staff shortages at veterinary hospitals in the Okanagan, with many struggling to keep up with demand.

“It’s getting to the point where we have been trying to pull doctors and support staff from other clinics to help us keep the doors open 24 hours a day,” said Dr. Jennifer Watt, managing doctor at Fairfield Animal Hospital, the largest and only 24-hour animal hospital in the region.

Pet owners should be prepared for longer wait times, Watt said, but staff are doing the best they can.

“Our doors are always open. We do work on a triage system, so sometimes there is a bit of a wait. If you have to wait, that’s good because that means your pet is not as sick as others.”

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Other clinics in the Okanagan do not have the ability to move staff to cover the gaps.

“We’ve been short probably a good 25 per cent of our staff week over week since the end of December to the beginning of January,” Dr. Moshe Oz at Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital said.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have additional hospitals that we can pull staff and doctors from, so it really just comes down to the staff we have in clinic and people moving into different roles.”

Click to play video: 'Will B.C. health-care workers be moved to other regions in the province to fill staff shortages?' Will B.C. health-care workers be moved to other regions in the province to fill staff shortages?
Will B.C. health-care workers be moved to other regions in the province to fill staff shortages? – Nov 1, 2021

 

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The mental wellbeing of doctors and staff has also been strained.

“The other thing that we are having to deal with is stress leave. A lot of our doctors are finding it’s really difficult to work these shifts and have a life,” Watt said.

Added Oz: “We are always trying to balance saying yes [to clients while managing] staff’s wellbeing and not cause burnout.”

The bottom line for pet owners is to be patient, both doctors say.

“Staff are trying the best as [they] can to save lives and keep animals healthy,” Watt said.

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