As I write this there are approximately 800 veterinarian positions needing to be filled in Australia, more than 20 within out little island state alone. That means that almost all the clinics within Tasmania are operating with a full capacity workload yet are understaffed with vets and nurses.
Therefore if you call and can’t get an appointment for several weeks, it is not that we do not want to see you, because we do- the welfare of your animal is our main concern. But of equal concern is the health of our staff. Quite simply there are not enough hours in the day for us to physically see everyone. Our vets are stretched to the point of breaking right now.
At the Animal Medical Centre we are proud of our record and reputation of going out of the way to help all animals that are sick or suffering. When our clients have an animal that needs emergency treatment, we will always be there for you. For more routine appointments, there may be a bit of a wait.
As an insight, each week at the Animal Medical Centre we undertake more than 100 surgical procedures and care for tens of patients in our hospital. Our vets are not only GPs- they are trained in emergency medicine, multiple surgery fields, radiography, ophthalmology, dermatology, dentistry, behavioural medicine, urology, obstetrics, oncology - the list goes on. For humans, this would be covered by multiple doctors of different fields, but for animals this is often just one vet. Additionally, there is no separate emergency service for pets in Launceston. Those same vets that treat our animals throughout the day are then on call in the evenings, weekends, and public holidays. Our nurses, kennel hands and receptionists are superstars- from triaging the emergency cases to caring for our patients in hospital, as well as keeping our vets as close to on schedule as is possible. We are not subsidized by the government so we cannot offer the equivalent of Medicare for consultations or drugs, yet we open for appointments everyday of the year apart from Christmas Day which is for emergencies only.
So where does that leave our clients? In an attempt to continue to service our community, we are training our nurses to be able to take on their own consults for our less tricky but just as important appointments. Not only does this add to the job satisfaction of our nurses, but it also frees up some much-needed space in the vet schedules to see those patients that require their expertise.
The veterinary industry has the highest suicide rates of all medical industries and we need to manage our own mental health and protect the mental and physical health of our staff.
Members of our leadership team will be undertaking some mental health first aid training soon in an effort to support those in our team who are struggling, but we can always use your help.
Please don’t be angry if we cannot look after a stray dog – we don’t have the room to keep them, this is the job councils.
Please don’t be angry if we can’t see your animal because your usual vet is full – we are struggling just as much to have the time to see our own clients.
Please don’t be angry if you are asked to sit past your appointment time – chances are we are busy trying to save the life of someone else’s best friend.
We are not looking for anything other than your understanding when it is time to book your pet in to see us, so please remember that currently we have very little capacity and a huge workload. As always, we are doing our best looking after your animals and our own staff.
Pictured is Teddy Freckles Turbo - photo courtesy of Dr Lisa Towns