Nova Scotia

How some Halifax animal hospitals are responding to COVID-19

Most veterinary clinics in the Halifax Regional Municipality have implemented additional measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but one hospital is taking a decidedly aggressive approach by allowing only staff and pets to enter the building.

Hospitals are open, but enhancing cleaning and practising social distancing

A staff member of the Cobequid Animal Hospital in Lower Sackville, N.S., meets a client and their dog in the parking lot, as per the clinic's new aggressive measures in response to COVID-19. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Most veterinary clinics in the Halifax Regional Municipality have implemented additional measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but one hospital is taking a decidedly aggressive approach.

The Cobequid Animal Hospital in Lower Sackville has locked its doors, with only staff and pets allowed to enter the building.

The clinic has also opened a drive-thru for clients to pick up prescriptions, food and other products, which has been helped by the fact the building already happened to have a drive-thru window.

Manager Cynthia Todd said the unusual measures came after she and the hospital's four owners met Monday morning.

"The main reason we are doing this is because we want to be able to keep people safe so that we can remain open so that we can help pets that are truly in need," said Todd.

"This is our choice. This is what we stand for. We just want the community to be aware that we are doing everything we can."

Cynthia Todd, manager of the Cobequid Animal Hospital, says the clinic's new drive-thru implemented in response to COVID-19 has been very busy. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Clients who arrive at the clinic for an appointment are asked to call from the parking lot. A team member dressed in protective gear will then come outside to retrieve the pet, bringing them directly to an examination room.

All contact with the client during the visit will be done by phone, including approvals for diagnostics and payment.

When the appointment is finished, staff will escort the pet back to the client's car and head back inside to disinfect the exam room before the next pet comes in.

Todd said so far, the reaction from clients has been very positive and one of understanding and appreciation.

"Our biggest fear is that other practices aren't going to be able to remain open, and then pets will not receive the care they need when they do become ill," said Todd.

"I feel very proud to work in a business that feels this strongly about the community and the safety of the public, our clients, the staff and our pets."

Paul Higgins buys cat food at the Cobequid Animal Hospital's new drive-thru window. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Todd said they have also stopped all preventive medicine and elective surgeries, such as annual exams, wellness exams and spay and neutering procedures.

Moreover, Cobequid has changed how it operates to reduce the risk of losing staff members or shutting down.

Separate teams comprised of veterinarians, technicians and receptionists will work at different times of day. They will disinfect the clinic and leave before the next team arrives to reduce contact.

Todd said that means if a team member becomes ill or tests positive for COVID-19, their team will be sent home for self-isolation rather than the entire staff.

What other clinics are doing

Most animal hospitals around the Halifax Regional Municipality remain open, but are taking precautions, including enhancing cleaning and practising social distancing.

Metro Animal Emergency Clinic in Dartmouth, a 24-hour hospital that sees many emergency cases, is limiting the number of people allowed in the lobby at one time.

Clients are being asked to call upon arrival and wait in their vehicles. Pets will be seen in order of the severity of their condition.

It is also disinfecting rooms after each client, and increasing cleaning and disinfecting practices overall. The hospital warned that these new measures may result in longer wait times.

Basinview Animal Hospital in Bedford is asking that people who need prescriptions to call ahead to minimize contact with staff, and is encouraging payment over the phone.

Meanwhile, staff at Carnegy Animal Hospital in Halifax are cleaning exam rooms between each visit, and are asking people who are sick to stay away from the clinic.

If your animal needs care and you are sick, Carnegy asks that you find someone else to bring in your pet.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aly Thomson

Reporter/Editor

Aly Thomson is an award-winning journalist based in Halifax who loves helping the people of her home province tell their stories. She is particularly interested in issues surrounding justice, education and the entertainment industry. You can email her with tips and feedback at aly.thomson@cbc.ca.

now