Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s executive orders as a result of COVID-19 forced veterinarians in Douglas County to get creative when treating their customers.
While observing social distancing guidelines has succeeded in keeping employees safe, it also reduced the number of animals that veterinary clinics could treat each day. according to a number of veterinarians.
Dr. Scott Hendy at Parkway Animal Hospital made sure that if one of his employees did get exposed, he would still have people to work.
“We definitely had to adjust things, we shut down the first few days and we split our staff into two crews and alternated days working, so if somebody got exposed only half of the crew would be quarantined and the other half could keep working,” Hendy said.
It was a similar situation at Companion Animal Clinic in Roseburg, where help is available by appointment only. Each pet owner is greeted at the parking lot by a staff member who triages the pet and collects necessary information from the pet owner.
“They bring their pet in and of course we’re all wearing masks in the clinic, clients do not get to enter the clinic,” said Dr. Alan Ross, owner of Companion Animal Clinic. “The one exception is euthanasia where the client has to mask up and come in and follow all the rules.”
Ross said the process has gone pretty smoothly, although it does take more time, his staff has been able to see every animal that needed to be seen.
“It’s actually worked out real well,” Ross said. “We’ve been able to keep our full staff except that we’re down about six people, some for health reasons ... they didn’t feel they should be exposed to the COVID, and a couple that just don’t want exposure, but in general we’ve kept up our staff for the most part.”
State executive orders have forced For the Love of Paws to adjust as well. Director Jim Wess said the workers have been committed to following the COVID-19 safety guidelines.
“We do the masks and we keep our distance, we’ve closed our lobby and we do the transactions over the phone for credit card information, so they don’t have to come into the clinic, they do it all from their car,” Wess said. “It’s just been a pain in general, but business hasn’t really reduced as a result of it.”
For the Love of Paws charges on a sliding scale depending on the ability to pay. The clinic has started doing some non-emergency surgeries, but it’s limited to the number of personal protection equipment they can get to support the surgery staff.
“We’re having to watch what we schedule based on the equipment that we have because we have to reserve a good percentage to take care of those emergencies that might come up,” Wess said.
The veterinarians had been limited to emergency procedures and sick animals but can now do elective procedures. That was good news for the employees who have had hours cut.
“We’re back to having a full staff in the clinic now,” Hendy said.
Ross said his office is gearing up for the elective procedures, but business, he said, has been pretty steady through all of the state restrictions under the governor’s executive order. Now, he’ll be able to do procedures that are important but weren’t considered emergencies.
“We’ll be back to doing spaying, neutering and routine dentistries, and trying to get life a little bit back to normal,” Ross said.
He feels his clinic has been pretty fortunate through the restrictions and his employees were able to take care of the needs of people’s pets. He said the financial impact was substantial, but not to the point that it will cause pay cuts. He feels fortunate he’s been able to keep the staff intact.
“In fact, we have increased our employees’ pay to some degree during these times, just because we appreciate them staying on with us and even though they know there’s a little bit of a risk. I’ve been very pleased,” Ross said. “Things could change rapidly, though, if one of us happened to come down with (COVID-19) and then everybody was exposed.”
Hendy also said the restrictions have taken a toll financially.
“It’s definitely affected things, but large animal work really hasn’t slowed down at all, I’m busier than ever, and cattle and horses, those things can’t wait,” Hendy said. “But the small animals have definitely slowed down and really affected things.”
Hendy said it feels like things are turning around for the business.
“Yes, I think we’re getting better and doing more elective surgeries and with all the social distancing and trying to handle these animals and bring them in without the owner there, it's labor intensive so it’s cumbersome and slower than normal,” Hendy said.