With the current situation in the veterinary industry we are forced to make drastic changes to be able to continue to help our clients and their furry families. Since many of you may not be familiar with the situation, we wanted to share and explain what is going so you can understand why these changes were necessary.
For many years even prior to the COVID crisis, the number of veterinarians and veterinary technicians working in clinical work (i.e. working with pets and clients) versus the demand has been decreasing. This has the direct impact of increasing the workload of the veterinarians that are doing clinical work. This is due to many factor:
- The limited number of veterinarians graduating each year. There are only 450 veterinarians that graduate each year in Canada (there are 5 veterinary schools in Canada). This number is not currently enough to replenish the number of veterinarians retiring, especially with baby boomers generation retiring. Some of those will leave for other countries (mostly USA). The situation is similar for veterinary technicians where the number did not increase with the demand.
- Not all veterinarians are doing clinical work. The government, the research/pharmaceutical industry and the various schools employs a number of veterinarians. Many veterinarians also work in the lifestock related veterinary care. Only about 50% of the veterinarians are working with cats and dogs type clinical work.
- There are more and more speciliazed care. Veterinary specialists are an incredibly valuable ressource to the veterinary community. However, since the ratio of veterinarians that become specialists is higher, if the number of graduating veterinarian is not increased, the number of general practice veterianrian is decreasing.
- Increased ratio of women becoming vets over the years (which is about 80% now). While this is a great positive to the profession, because of maternity leaves and demands of families, the percentage of the lifetime carreer hours of clinical work is lower than before.
- Greater demand for work/life balance versus the departing generation. Many baby boomers that are retiring were workalcoholics compared to the younger generations. Working 65+ hours a week is not appealing to many. So without an increase in number of veterinarian, this creates another deficit of available veterinarians.
- The significant increase in number of pets, especially since COVID started. Many people have adopted new pets during the pandemic. Even before COVID, the demand for veterinary care had increased over the years.
- Reduction of productivity related to COVID. Because of the restrictions at the various stage of COVID (some still in place today). It is difficult to see the same number of patients per hour. Based on US studies, productivity because of the various measure have decreased about 25% in 2020. So the same number of vets can see fewer patient than before.
- Early retirements, burnouts, suicides and, carreer changes. With the coumpounded stress of the relative shortage pre-pandemic and the huge increase in the work load of veterinarians and technicians due to the decreased productions and increase number of pets, many veterinary professionals have stopped working in the clinical aspect (working with pets and clients). The stress has pushed out many out of the profession. Some of the older veterinarians/technicians close to retirement have decided to retire. Working as essential workers (so not remotely), risking exposure prior the vaccine were in place was too much a risk for some. 26% of veterinarian has considered suicide during the pandemic (versus 10% for the general population). The actual number that went through is much lower but too many lives are still loss. Some veterinarians moved to government jobs or industries (pharmaceuticals, etc). Some just quit veterinary work altogether and changed lower stress work.
All of this created a situation where there is a unprecendented number of veterinary hospital looking for veterinarians and veterinary technicians. There are over 200 position for veterinarians available in Ontario alone. Most veterinary practice are not able to recruit enough workforce to keep up with the demand. As such, many veterinary practice have stopped taking in new clients. This also result in a major overflow toward the emergency services (that also have trouble recruiting) forcing them to limit the emergencies they take on (usually only the most extremes with wait time sometimes of over 48 HOURS). This overflow falls back to the general practice which increase the workload that would normally be taken on by the emergencies. So even with the same number of patients, the work load actually increases. This result in a huge competition to hire veterinary professional. In the past year and a half, salary offered to candidates have increased by 35%. To avoid losing, employees, veterinary hospital have to stay competive in the demand driven market.
Cost of running the hospital increases:
- Salaries of employees. Here at The Hamlet Veterinary Hospital, we always have tried to be competive for the salary and benefits to our employee, to offer them stability. As such we strive to stay ahead in their compensations. This has greatly increased our salary expenses. We know how important our support staff are, we need to keep them engaged in our wonderful profession to continue to provide the best possible care for your pets.
- Medical consumable (single use items) cost increase. The veterinary services use the same medical equipment as the human medical world. The gloves, mask, disinfectants, anesthesia materials and many drugs. With the COVID pandemic, there was a huge increase in demands for those products and well and a reduction in production due to shut down of factories and shipping of those equipments. The price of medical materials as skyrocketed, many items been more than double their pre-pandemic prices.
- Rent. Our rent has increased 50% since last year. While , most of it is due to the expansion into the next unit, this is still a significant increase in operation cost. There are major contruction costs involved too.
All of this create a situation where we have no choice to increase the cost of our services significantly (around 15-20%) just to be able to keep up. We will try to adjust the cost so that it only compensate for the increased costs of running the hospital. We have to fine tune it over time depending how the cost fluctuate. We do not anticipate increasing profits. These increases will be mostly in the services (consultations, surgeries, in house tests). Price for products (like food and medication) should stay about the same. That said, many products price are going up from the suppliers (because of shortage of materials to make those) so some may also see increases in price,
This price increase is not isolated and most veterinary hospital are forced into the same situation.
For now we will continue to accept new clients as long as our capacity allows. This decision is motivated by trying to help pet owners finding themselves in desperate need of a veterinarian and every other clinic turning them away. Rest assure, we reserve several sick pet appointments daily to accomodate our current patients too. We do emergency surgeries or consultations if we can provide adequate care at the time. We do all that is possible to help our current patients.
We understand that all this information may surprise many of you. This is why we posted this page to explain why such measures were necessary. We always strive to offer competitive prices to our clients and try to find way to save them some money. We will continue to try to find way to minimize the cost pass down to our clients. Rest assure the health of your pets and the wellbeeing of your family is our priority.
Dr Bernard Vincelette, Dr Annie Séguin and the whole team of The Hamlet Veterinary Hospital
For those that are interest to learn more, we inserted various links in the text above.