Australian vet shortage: Angry pet owners in Canberra exacerbate chronic vet shortage | Guardian Cowra
Veterinary clinics have urged people to be more patient and understanding as reports of pet owners abusing vets exacerbate the crippling chronic staff shortage in the industry.
Dr Candice Evans, clinical director of the emergency department at Fyshwick Referral Animal Hospital, said the abuse had added to the pressures and stress the industry was already facing.
âI had a client yelled at me because they had to wait. I also brought in a client with a therapy animal and he told me if I couldn’t save his animal he was going to kill himself, âsaid Dr. Evans.
âPets are now a bigger part of people’s lives, becoming a bigger part of their lives, which means they expect a lot more from us.
“Sometimes the vets don’t want to take care of it anymore and that makes them tired of coming to work and trying to save everything. We can only do a lot but we are always mistreated by pet owners.”
The chronic staff shortage left the hospital choosing to close a weekend in April for non-critical appointments for the first time.
Dr Evans said they had “certainly seen an increase” in the number of patients over the past 12 months.
âEasily double down. I’ve never seen anything like it before and I think it’s not just in emergencies but in veterinary clinics in general,â she said.
“It’s all over the world. Everyone gets busier with the times and we don’t have new vets so some are tired and exhausted so they leave the industry.”
On industry support, Dr Evans said it was essential to look at the foundations of veterinary education and training.
âWe need a lot more training on how to handle higher intensity situations and difficult clients,â she said.
“We are usually immersed in the depths of these stressful situations and we are not really properly prepared to deal with them.”
Hospital business manager Jasdeep Phull said she wanted clients to understand that the clinic, like most health centers, had a triage system.
âThere could be two ventilator patients and three active dying and there may be only one vet at a time,â she said.
âYou may be able to triage over the phone. Our nurses are all graduates and they can get things past the vets, âshe said.
“If your pet is critical, for example if he is bitten by a snake, call ahead to have everything ready to save him.”
The most recent data from the ACT government showed that while dog registrations in 2020 fell from 512 in January to 199 in April, the trend has been on the rise since.
It peaked at 584 in January this year, with the average since January 2020 being 456 per month.
Research conducted by the Department of Employment in May 2019 found that employers continued to experience difficulty filling advertised vet positions with apparent shortages for the third year in a row.
Dr Michael Archinal of Manuka Veterinary Hospital said client abuse, while devastating, was a rare occurrence and was not worse during Covid.
“We are actually referring abusive clients,” said Dr. Archinal.
âIf they’re abusive to our staff, unreasonable or threatening in any way, we’ll fire them and send them their clinical records and tell them not to come back, which helps our staff because they really feel empowered.
Dr Archinal said that while he had not been mistreated, he knew colleagues in the industry had been pushed against the walls, accused of being a veterinarian for financial gain only and being accused of mismanaging pets.
âWe really go through a lot of trauma because we take all of this responsibility on ourselves and not being supported by pet owners makes it very difficult,â he said.
He encouraged clients to be kind and understanding, saying the vets were there for them.
“We do this because we really want to help the animals. We take care of them as if they were our own. To be mistreated in this way really goes a long way,” he said.
“I want to say that most of the pet owners in Canberra go above and beyond and their friendliness is fantastic.”
Dr Eloise Bright, founder of ACT Pet Crisis Support, which provides subsidized veterinary care to low-income pet owners, said most people were “genuinely grateful and respectful to vets.”
Dr Bright said there was no excuse for being abusive and helping with pet insurance and more nonprofit charities were key to helping the challenges of the workforce.
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This story ‘It cuts really deep’: Angry pet owners exacerbate chronic shortage of vets
first appeared on The Canberra Times.