P.E.I. veterinarians feeling strain of demand due to COVID-19
Nationwide vet shortage causing problems on P.E.I.
Canada has been facing a nationwide veterinarian shortage for quite some time, but P.E.I. has been able to avoid it for the most part with a vet college nearby, the P.E.I. Veterinary Medical Association says.
The Island has always had access to new graduates from the Atlantic Veterinary College located in Charlottetown, but the situation has changed because of the pandemic, said Dr. Gary Morgan, registrar of the association.
"Now we are experiencing situations where clinics are feeling overworked and they are also understaffed because they can't get veterinarians in their facilities," he said.
With a lack of vets across the country and throughout North America, recent graduates now have more options to practice in other areas, said Morgan.
Dr. John Drake, an owner of the Charlottetown Veterinary Clinic, said while P.E.I. was fortunate in terms of enduring shorter lockdowns than any other province, COVID-19 has still affected the industry on the Island.
"Our phones are very busy and during all that time we of course have to fit in emergencies if we can," he said. "What's happened during COVID-19 is everything has become a little longer to do with the COVID-19 restrictions."
The clinic is still only allowing a certain number of clients in the clinic at one time to ensure physical distancing, he said.
"I think we have more people with pets and more people who are pet owners for the first time, so that's adding to the demand," said Drake.
He said while the clinic tries to deal with emergencies, there are longer wait times for things such as spaying or neutering pets.
Those types of surgeries were not identified as essential during the pandemic and vets are still catching up on procedures, he said.
"What we are encouraging people to do is arrange for their spay or neuter at the time where they have their puppy or kitten vaccines. And that means they can plan ahead," said Drake.
Drake deals with large animals. He said he hasn't been impacted as bad by COVID-19. He's able to go to people's farms to assess animals. But he feels bad for his colleagues who work with small animals who have to work in the office.
"It's been more of a challenge for small animal veterinarians. Anytime things are more difficult and you have to operate with more restrictions, it puts an extra demand on things," Drake said.
"Our veterinarians are just like everybody else on P.E.I. we have been faced with all the background stress of COVID-19."
The clinic did offer evening hours before the pandemic began. Morgan said he made the choice to stop that during the pandemic and they won't be returning anytime soon because vets "need a break at the end of the day."
Morgan is worried about his colleagues as well.
"Our profession is known to be of high risk for situations involving mental illness. It's a very stressful profession. We deal with life and death on a daily basis," he said.
"We have partnered into wellness programs that will provide support for veterinarians who are feeling stressed."
Morgan said he doesn't see any end in sight in terms of correcting the vet shortage in Canada.