Due to the COVID-19 crisis, veterinary practices are experiencing an unprecedented demand for our services. The reality is that our local veterinary community is overwhelmed with patients needing care to the point that some general practices have had to stop taking new patients for routine appointments, and ER facilities are working on up to 12 hour wait times. Some ERs have even had to pause patient intake at times when they have become so overwhelmed that they cannot provide care to non-critical cases.
Frontier is committed to seeing new and existing patients that need care, so we are taking steps to help support our colleagues in the community. We have adjusted our scheduling procedure to allow more same-day urgent and emergency cases to be seen and have set blocks reserved for preventive care appointments. This means we may need to book your pet’s routine exam and vaccination appointment a few weeks out, but also ensures we have appointments reserved for truly urgent services. For sick pets, we will triage the urgency of your pet’s health issue and determine whether we need to see your pet as a same-day emergency or book as a next-day urgent care appointment. Even with these measures, there are times where we can become overwhelmed with walk-in referrals from ERs that have had to halt new intakes. We understand some of you have experienced delays in your scheduled appointments when we’ve had these influxes and appreciate your understanding and patience if you’ve had to wait or reschedule a routine appointment.
While this surge in needed care was unexpected, it is explainable based on factors we’ve seen come into play over the last several months. Below are the trends we’re seeing and things you can do to help make veterinary care more accessible and a better experience for everyone in our community.
People are home more and have decided it’s the perfect time to get a furry companion! From #pandemicpuppies to adoptions, there is a boom in people bringing new pets into their families. Puppies and kittens need several veterinary visits to complete their vaccine boosters on a set interval, so each adopted baby means 3-4 time-sensitive appointments on our schedule plus the eventual spay or neuter surgery. Pets adopted from shelters often have health or behavioral issues that need to be addressed by their new family, thus multiple veterinary visits are needed.
What does this mean for you? These visits are essential to ensure the safety of our pet population; preventing outbreaks of preventable diseases like parvovirus and CIV, unplanned pregnancies, and managing behavior problems are crucial to a healthy pet community. If you’re adding a new furry family member, call your veterinarian in advance to schedule care as these appointments are often booked several weeks out.
If you have previous veterinary or shelter health records, please email them to us ahead of time if possible, or bring them to your appointment. This allows us to complete the necessary vaccines, tests, and prescriptions more effectively and efficiently.
Curbside service is a less efficient process. At Frontier, we’re obsessed with efficiency because we know it means a better experience for our patients and clients and the best consistency of care. Even with our attention to detail and standardization of processes and protocols, curbside takes far more steps to complete every type of service we provide, including surgery dropoff, curbside appointments, and previously quick services, like prescription and food refills. Everything simply takes longer than it used to take, just like grocery shopping or stopping at the hardware store.
What does this mean for you? There are simple things you can do to help us streamline your curbside appointment and help our staff care for more pets every day.
- Complete your pre-appointment questionnaire before you arrive, EVERY time. Regardless of past curbside appointments you’ve had, completing the questionnaire each time is CRUCIAL to a smooth appointment.
- Check the phone number before you text to check-in and verify it’s correct. If you don’t receive a reply from us within 5 minutes of checking in, give us a call on our main phone number. We’ve had many frustrated clients who have misdialed or accidentally not hit “send” on their check-in text. Some folks have cell service or call screening issues; please closely monitor your phone to ensure you can receive our communications and let us know if you’re having trouble.
- STAY IN THE PARKING LOT, keep your phone on, pay attention to calls and texts, and answer even if an unfamiliar number is calling. It’s often taking our doctors and staff 4+ calls and texts to get through to pet owners. Waiting for pet owners to answer our texts or calls to bring their pet to the door, authorize treatment, or complete the invoicing process slows us down tremendously and results in your pet, and every pet following yours, waiting for care to be completed. Ultimately this can force us to see fewer sick pets because our doctors, technicians, and CSRs get backed up.
- Leash your dog and put your cat in a carrier. Transporting pets through the parking lot is a safety risk and we won’t compromise our patient’s safety. Cats are safest in a carrier so please, no leashed cats.
- Add firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com to your email address book. Our doctors and staff are communicating via email to streamline the curbside process, but it doesn’t work when our emails are going into your spam folder.
Being home more leads pet owners to notice behavior or health changes. Folks are seeing in real-time that weird thing their cat started doing or the itchy skin that seemed ok but now means watching your dog scratch all day while trying to participate in Zoom work meetings.
What does this mean for you? Please understand that when we are busy we must prioritize the most medically fragile and life-threatening cases. This can mean that less-urgent concerns, like chronic but stable conditions, ongoing allergies, ear infections, mild digestive trouble, etc, may not be seen same-day. This doesn’t mean we don’t care, it just means we know your pet is stable enough to wait a few days, where another pet may not be so fortunate.
We are frequently understaffed. Due to COVID, we have to take even minor illness symptoms seriously and have that team member stay home and consult a doctor. We also acknowledge that the veterinary field can be emotionally and physically draining on the best days, let alone when managing record caseloads during a global pandemic, so we support our staff when they need to take a mental health day. This has caused more staff sick days than we’ve ever had in the past. Why not add more staff? As we discussed in our last blog post, we are actively recruiting and hiring but this is very challenging because there is a national shortage of experienced veterinary staff in all job descriptions.
What does this mean for you? Understand that our team members wake up every morning and choose to work at Frontier to help you and your pet. We all chose veterinary medicine as our career because we truly care about pets and the people that love them. We are all working harder than we ever have and, just like you, are struggling through impacts of the pandemic in our professional and personal lives.
We appreciate your understanding, kindness, and support during this historic time. We again thank you for your trust and the privilege of caring for your family members.