FORT COLLINS, Colorado (CBS4) – Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, a world-renowned animal care facility, is scheduled to temporarily close overnight due to an extreme staff shortage. Schools, restaurants and other businesses have experienced staff shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now that same problem is forcing the CSU to turn away patients overnight until October.
Dr Amanda Cavanagh, assistant professor of emergency care at the University Veterinary Hospital, said understaffing, increased demand for animal medical services and scheduling issues have forced the university to cut back on hours of service until October.
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“Right now all parts of the squad are understaffed,” Cavanagh told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “We quickly realized in emergency care that October was going to be extremely short in terms of veterinary, technical and front desk staff.
Part of the problem, Cavanagh said, stemmed from an abundance of adoptions and pet purchases during the pandemic.
More and more people have decided to have pets while working from home. Because of this, family vets were inundated with patients. A spillover effect then led to more people bringing their pets to the CSU emergency hospital for lower-level medical needs.
“Now these come to the emergency room because family vets are very busy and can’t rush another patient on their already booked day,” Cavanagh said.
At the same time, the demand for veterinarians has exceeded the number of people entering the profession.
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“We are definitely seeing this nationwide shortage of vets to meet the number of pets that need care,” Cavanagh said. “The number of pets has really jumped over the past two years, but the number of vets has not been able to keep up with that.”
As the CSU seeks more veterinary technicians, veterinarians and receptionists, the veterinary hospital will operate on restricted hours. During the month of October, the animal hospital will not accept patients after 7 p.m. and before 7 a.m.
Cavanagh said the decision is ultimately the best for everyone involved. The hospital ultimately exists to educate future veterinarians. Thus, the university wanted to ensure that the students received extensive training.
Typically, there would be between three and five emergency vets working at night. Currently there is only one.
By limiting hours of operation, staff can ensure quality education, while ensuring patients receive quality care.
“If we try to provide patient care with a small staff, or if we try to provide patient care with tired staff, we are more likely to cause medical errors,” Cavanagh said.
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While the CSU asks outside vets to take more patients during this time, animals brought to the CSU campus that experience extreme emergencies will receive as much care as possible until they are stabilized.