Kamloops pet owners may be forced to drive to Kelowna in emergencies | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops pet owners may be forced to drive to Kelowna in emergencies

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If you're a pet owner in Kamloops, you may now have to take your animal to Kelowna in an emergency situation.

The city doesn't have an emergency animal hospital, so after hours, local veterinarians have rotated their on-call services among seven clinics. But veterinarians and their employees have been burning out with high workloads in the last two years, with some Kamloops clinics backing out of the on-call group.

"Paired with a national veterinarian shortage, staffing concerns and burn out, everyone's exhausted," Dr. Adrian Helmers said.

Dr. Helmers is the co-owner of Neighbourhood Veterinary Hospital in Kamloops. She said in the last few months, two clinics dropped from the on-call network. With five left, her clinic recently opted out as well. Now she and the clinic's other owner, Dr. Megan Broschak, offer their own 24-hour emergency service and its restricted to their clients.

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Aberdeen Veterinary Hospital, Oriole Road Animal Hospital, Kamloops Veterinary Clinic, Central Animal Hospital and Valleyview Veterinary Clinic are still part of the 24 hour service, but Riverside Small Animal Hospital has also backed out, Dr. Helmers said.

Clients for some clinics could be directed to Fairfield Animal Hospital in Kelowna once triaged over the phone, forced to make a two hour drive.

Another clinic is opting into the online VetTriage program, which puts a pet owner on the phone or webcam with an American veterinarian to help diagnose and triage them to a clinic during an after hours emergency. There is a $50 upfront fee for the service.

Nina Ferguson, Aberdeen Veterinary Hospital manager, said the clinic as staying with the on-call group, giving priority to the clients of the four still within the group.

Kamloops veterinarians will often field calls from animal owners from as far as Salmon Arm, Merritt, Lillooet and Blue River.

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Ferguson acknowledged that in the past two years, there have been even more routine calls than ever before from pet owners, including regular visits for vaccinations, and spay and neuter procedures.

"(The on-call group) worked fairly well, but there's a lot of tiredness, then people retire out and there's no one to fill that spot," she said.

Veterinarians collaborated to offer the on-call group for pet owners in the Kamloops area in lieu of a 24-hour emergency animal hospital, but now, veterinary hospitals are dealing with staffing shortages leaving them to find other options so staff that remain can still help their clients.

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With appointments booking out as far as a month away, Ferguson wants clients to know they are "trying their best" to manage the workload and help as many animals as they can.

Ferguson said local veterinarians have floated the idea of dedicating a 24-hour hospital to the Kamloops area, but it's an expensive endeavour and far from becoming a reality.

"It's a dream," she said.

Both Ferguson and Dr. Helmers said there is hope to get all seven clinics together on the on-call group, but for now, some local pet owners might be forced to make the two hour drive to Kelowna if their pet has a medical emergency.

As for Neighbourhood Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Helmers said she hopes their own 24-hour service is just temporary.

"It's going to be exhausting for awhile," she said, adding that the clinic is in the process of hiring a third doctor, which should help alleviate the workload.

— This story was corrected at 10:23 a.m. Wednesday, May 11, 2022, to say Central Animal Hospital is still a member of the 24-hour emergency on-call group.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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