Emergency veterinary services latest to be hit by staff shortage

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Farmers Korner Veterinary Hospital is pictured on Sunday January 9. The veterinary office is one of many in Summit County that are struggling with staffing levels, resulting in reduced emergency services.
Lindsey Toomer / Daily News Summit

As is the case with many industries across the county, the veterinary services are affected by staff shortages.

Until recently, the Summit County Veterinary Emergency Group had 24-hour emergency care.

The emergency department is managed by five local veterinary hospitals – Breckenridge Animal Hospital, Farmers Korner Veterinary Hospital, Silverthorne Veterinary Hospital, Frisco Animal Hospital and Buffalo Mountain Animal Hospital – which rotate daily as the center of the County Emergency Department. Summit for veterinary patients.



Typically, an emergency group veterinarian will be on call for after-hours emergency services each weekday, and the five service participants will rotate who is on call each weekend. Christina Hurley, hospital director at Farmers Korner Veterinary Hospital, said voicemail for each of the emergency group participants should indicate which office is on call that day.

Hurley said the emergency group has even started helping some people in Park and Grand counties, as the purpose of the service is to try and prevent people from having to go to the Front Range in the event of a ’emergency.



But on Tuesday, January 4, there were no emergency vet services in Summit County because there weren’t enough staff to handle the service at the office that was on call that day.

Other days without local emergency veterinary services are likely to come, and while the service has always operated 24 hours a day, that will change soon as well.

Dr Justin Milizio, a veterinarian at Silverthorne Veterinary Hospital, said that due to understaffing, many in the group decided it would be best to stop on-call emergency services after 10 p.m. , which he says will come into effect in early February. For this reason, he encouraged local pet owners to contact their veterinarian as soon as they notice a problem with their pet.

“We always try to tell people that if they have an emergency during the day, they should always contact the vet as soon as possible,” Milizio said. “Most of our late night calls … almost all of them are from people who have watched their dog go through something all day, and for some reason they don’t call until the middle of the night.”

Milizio estimated that the Summit County Veterinary Emergency Group handles between 20 and 30 emergencies per week, but that there are typically more emergency calls in the summer than in the winter.

Hurley said that staffing the Summit County veterinary offices has always been difficult, but lately they joke that “we don’t know where everyone has gone.” Hurley said Dr Denisa Court is the only veterinarian at Farmers Korner.

“She’s working everyday, and it’s gotten to the point where she can’t do all the shifts for the hospital too,” Hurley said. “We were one of those who had to at least reduce the number of shifts we work on, but there are other hospitals that are backing down completely right now.”

While Hurley said it’s hard to say how many more days Summit County will have without emergency vet services, Milizio said he expects the service to lose about 40% of its days off. operation and changing the service to operate from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. also reduce hourly availability.

“We’re getting to a point where we just have a lot of days where there won’t be someone on call, and it’s going to be a challenge for the community,” Milizio said. “… Between staff shortages and the involvement of hospital groups, there will be nights when people should probably be aware that they have to try to descend and seek emergency help on the Front Range. “

Milizio said if it was up to him, the emergency group would not limit his services as it is such a vital need for the community.

“It’s not something I want to do,” Milizio said. “I don’t want to have a missing rotation in the county. … I don’t want our clients to go without emergency care. … It is not an easy thing to manage.

Hurley and Milizio said Frisco Animal Hospital has indicated that he will also limit his emergency shifts and that he will not be able to take shifts after the end of January, but a veterinarian at Frisco Animal Hospital does could not be contacted to confirm.

Hurley said Farmers Korner is diligently looking for more vets and vet techs to work at the hospital. She requested that clients be kind and patient with their local vets when they have limited staff.

“It’s a problem everywhere, but please be kind and patient and know that we are working as hard as possible,” said Hurley.

On a day when there are no emergency veterinary services available locally, people recommended by Milizio contact Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital or Colorado Animal Specialty & Emergency in Boulder.

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