A letter in appreciation of my hospital team, and of our wonderful clients and patients during the NS State of Emergency/COVID19:
We have been immersed in this strange new reality for nearly 4 weeks now, and I would like to express my gratitude to my staff and to our wonderful clients, who by-and-large have met these challenges with compassion and patience and understanding for the difficult circumstances that it has imposed on all of us.
My staff has always been my rock and has always made coming to work a pleasure. I count on them for so much and they always give willingly. I know that I am not always the easiest to please – I set the bar high – but this team always ‘brings it’ and always works so hard. COVID19 has brought a number of challenges to our workplace, and I have only increased respect and admiration of these women on their taking it in stride. I recently described my take on COVID19 as a veterinarian/business owner as being forced to run a marathon with ankle and wrist shackles and with my glasses fogged up (from my mask), and having to re-start that daily. I can’t say the worries are any less after almost 4 weeks, but without these 4 women I wouldn’t have made it past the start line. Most will recognize I didn’t complete the ‘learn to run’ course…..
Most clients have accepted our “new way of doing things” without question and with gratitude that we are still open and providing service for their pets. Also, the patients we have encountered have all been stellar! I know it feels strange, somehow wrong that you cannot be present for your pet’s exam, but I promise your pets are being treated kindly and within their ‘limits’.
Some clients understandably have questions about why we have to function in the way we do, and the following is to help explain our reasons for doing so:
From the moment that Nova Scotians were given directives by Public Health, veterinarians across the province have understood that we, as stewards of public health, MUST comply with those orders. Once the State of Emergency was called, it only made it more finite and critical that we MUST respect those orders, or be in jeopardy of being closed down. What most of the general public doesn’t realize is that when the state of emergency was called, there was NO provision in the legislation that included veterinarians as an essential service, so when the next wave of closures were to be called, we veterinarians could have potentially been forced to close. Since being deemed essential service, it does not absolve us from shirking our responsibility to upholding the public health directives, it makes it even more important that even one veterinarian in this province doesn’t act in opposition to these orders, or the entire province could be without veterinary care for their pets.
In keeping with our directives, our staff has been reduced to 2 teams, where our 1 Doctor is the common denominator. We have shortened our business hours to 8AM to 1PM, Monday through Friday. Believe me, this is not the recipe for maintaining a veterinary hospital or to have our staff work enough hours to maintain their income, but yet we are doing it because we have been instructed by Public Health to do so. It is also a challenge for the Doctor to reasonably see every pet in that time allotted, even if we are reduced to urgent or emergency care only.
If you have had a pet with an urgent matter for us to address since the State of Emergency was declared, you have been asked to remain in your vehicle while we escort your pet inside. You haven’t been privy to the preparation that has taken place between each patient, the amount of handwashing, disinfection, ensuring that we maintain a social distance between each other. All of that takes time, and we appreciate your patience. Unless it has been medically necessary, the Doctor is handling and examining each patient without the benefit of an assistant, because otherwise it would mean having to share a close space with another human, face to face, and that is simply not possible right now. (If I get sick, ain’t nobody being treated!) For those clients who have been denied a nail trim for their pet – I thank you for your understanding the ‘bigger’ picture– the reality is the risk of my staff’s health, my health, the risk of a $7500 fine for the business for each offence, a risk to my license to practice veterinary medicine, not to mention the risk of closure of all veterinary hospitals, is simply not a risk I am going to take.
One of the things that has been most difficult for me as a veterinarian, since this COVID19 reality started, is how we approach end of life procedures. In the past, I have been able to comfort and convey compassion to the owners who have had to make this difficult choice, by sharing that moment with them, perhaps sharing a story or memory, and perhaps sharing a hug. Being a hugger by nature, I find it challenging to express my sympathy from behind a mask, and often without the owner’s presence for the euthanasia. For those that have lost a beloved pet during this difficult time, please know that we, too, grieve with you and do our best to make it a peaceful end for your family member.
In conclusion, thank you to all for your ongoing support and understanding. Together we are stronger. Please continue to respect the public health requirements of COVID19 – for all of us humans, but animals too.
Jody Cunningham, DVM
April 14, 2020