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Veterinarian shortage forcing Bend emergency clinic to stop 24-hour service

Animal hospital to step up with on-call overnight service for clients

(Update: Adding video, comments from emergency clinic and animal hospital)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Veterinarians in Central Oregon are facing a serious problem -- and as a result, so are their patients, and the people who care for them.

"Too many people and not enough staff,” Dr. Shalet Abraham, the medical director at Bend Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center, said Wednesday.

The emergency clinic has operated 24/7 for the past three years. However, starting May 1st, the clinic will no longer be operating overnight.

It will be open weekends from 8 a.m. to midnight, and weekdays 2 p.m. to midnight, but no longer overnight

The reason for the change is a shortage of veterinary doctors and technical staff.

"It's been a challenge to find enough people to stay open 24/7,” Abraham said. 

Abraham said there's a number of causes for the shortage.

The first she focused on was the increase of people moving to Central Oregon and acquiring pets. The second is the number of people leaving the veterinary profession, due to the stress of the pandemic. 

"And it's been tough,” Abraham said. “We've seen some people leave the profession because of the stresses of it, and there's not enough people coming up behind them to fill those open spots."

Abraham said losing 24/7 emergency services is affecting the rest of the Central Oregon veterinary community.

Dr. Sarah Cummings, practice owner and veterinarian at Riverside Animal Hospital, said the shortage overall and this change specifically should not be overlooked. 

"This is a big big big problem," she said.

Cummings said starting Saturday, her staff will offer on-call services after hours for existing clients.

"We hope that the impact to them is going to be minimized by us being able to fill this void,” Cummings said. 

She recommends all pet owners keep the change in consideration when deciding whether or not to take a pet to the hospital during the day.

"We would really recommend for owners to be more proactive on that end of things,” Cummings said.

Abraham said the solution to the problem is simple in theory, but getting there is the hard part.

"We need to hire more doctors. We need to hire more staff," Abraham said. "We need to double the amount of staff we have right now."

Article Topic Follows: Pets

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Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.


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