Veterinarians in Prince George to cease 24-hour emergency animal care amid burnout concerns

·2 min read
Casey Bockus says adding after-hours calls to vets' full work schedule was not sustainable. (Kate Partridge/CBC - image credit)
Casey Bockus says adding after-hours calls to vets' full work schedule was not sustainable. (Kate Partridge/CBC - image credit)

Veterinarians in Prince George say after-hours services will be reduced due to staffing shortages.

The city does not have a 24-hour emergency facility; a number of vet clinics had worked together to provide after-hours urgent-care service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Starting July 1 however, there will be no veterinarians available after 10 p.m.

Pet owners with an emergency after 10 p.m. will have to use telemedicine or seek 24-hour emergency facilities in Kelowna, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.

Kate Peebles of the Murdoch Veterinary Clinic said they have tried their best to fill a need in the community but it's coming at the expense of veterinarians.

LISTEN | Veterinarians in Prince George forced to end 24-hour emergency animal care

"If we don't put up any boundaries, the situation we know is going to get worse," she said.

Calling it a difficult but necessary decision, Peebles said they hope the move will help them retain staff, as well as attract new staff.

Casey Bockus of Prince George Veterinary Hospital estimates the city has lost about a quarter of its vets over the last year.

Vets' schedules are busier than ever, he said.

"It is causing burnout among some to the point that they're either leaving the industry altogether or they're leaving the area and seeking an area where they can have a better work-life balance," he said.

In April, the B.C. government said it is doubling the number of seats it will subsidize for first-year veterinary college to address a shortage of animal doctors.

Anne Kang, the minister of advanced education and skills training, said the province will provide $10.68 million to support 40 students entering the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon this fall.

Bockus said he is glad to hear about the expansion, but it will be years before the new students will be able to help.

"I don't see this, unfortunately, being a quick fix," he said.

Bockus said he would like to see a college for veterinarians in B.C. to serve only British Columbians.

There are only five veterinary schools in Canada, with a limited number of seats available for B.C. residents at Western College. The only other school west of Ontario, Quebec or the Atlantic region is in Alberta, and only Albertans can attend that one.

Bockus said he would also like to see it become easier for foreign-trained vets to work in Canada.