Dear Pet Parent,
Thank you for trusting us to care for your family member today. We strive to provide compassionate care and excellent customer service. Our intent of this letter is to communicate with you that our hospital has been experiencing much higher volumes of phone calls and patient visits than is typical. This has resulted in significantly longer wait times. We apologize to you for this inconvenience. We wanted to answer some frequently asked questions surrounding the wait time.
Why can’t we come into the hospital to wait with our pet?
We have a very small lobby and only 4 examination rooms. We are not able to adhere to CDC guidelines for safe social distancing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic with owners in the hospital. In addition, our lobby and exam rooms have been transitioned to patient kennel space to accommodate the increase in patients arriving for care.
Will my pet have to wait in line for care even if they are critical?
No. All patients are assessed by a triage nurse for vital signs and have an exam by the doctor upon arrival. Patients determined to be in unstable condition are moved to the front of the line. Life saving care will be initiated right away as indicated. Stabilization of arriving critical patients does extend the wait time of the patients that have less serious problems.
If my pet is stable and does have an extended wait, where do they wait?
Dogs are safely housed in a stainless-steel run or kennel. They are provided food (if appropriate), water, a cot, and walks outside. Cats are separated from the dogs in a cat designated room. We provide them with food (if appropriate), water, and a litter box. Upon owner request, stable pets can wait with their owner.
Why are so many pets arriving for emergency care?
With the pandemic, a few things have happened within the veterinary profession. First, Governor Whitmer placed restrictions on veterinary practices for the first 2 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, veterinary practices were only authorized to provide “essential care.” Many veterinary hospitals reduced staffing and split their staff into teams. Most additionally moved to a curb-side care model. These changes have reduced efficiency and the number of open appointments. Now that veterinary practices can provide preventive care again (vaccines, heartworm tests, dentistry), most are booked out for several weeks to make up for the months of canceled appointments. As a result, many of the urgently sick pets have been referred to our ER. Second, the only other veterinary emergency service in Grand Rapids has reduced their hours suddenly (now only open on weekends with limited capacity). This has resulted in an even larger influx of patients into our ER. This problem is affecting veterinary medicine state-wide. Even the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine Small Animal ER announced reduction of their hours to only being open nights and weekends. Our team is committed to staying open to serve our community. Unfortunately, this commitment has resulted in extended times, but we promise to never turn your family member away.
What steps have you taken to provide care for my pet more promptly?
We have added two doctors to our team, which has resulted in an additional 12 hours of doctor capacity per day. We have also nearly doubled our staffing since the start of this pandemic. We have also doubled the number of phone lines we have available. We have adjusted our operational protocol monthly to maximize our efficiency and improve our patient care.
Please know that we care very much. Your patience during this time is very appreciated.
Dr. Marilyn Brink, DVM & Claire Allen
Medical Director Hospital Manager