Dear valued clients,
As the province has, again, begun easing the restrictions necessary for the prevention of the spread of COVID, we look forward to being able to welcome you inside our clinic again soon. There have been many changes in public health restrictions over the past 2 years and we have chosen to remain curbside until now to keep everyone safe and our clinic open. The typical clinic operations at NVEC are very different than at your regular veterinarian. A typical visit to your veterinarian is scheduled for a specific time, where they can control the client traffic in the building, and where you are often in and out very quickly, with short wait times. It is easier to plan for a safe and controlled reopening in this type of environment. However, the nature of an ER environment is unpredictable and less easy to control. During ‘normal’ operations, on a busy weekend, there would often be 15-20 clients in the building at a time, either waiting in exam rooms or often in open public areas, usually for several hours at a time. There would also be up to 10-12 team members in the hospital at the same time. Obviously, planning a safe reopening for this environment is more complex to do in safe and controlled manner consistent with infection prevention best practices.
Given the recent surge in COVID cases, we have delayed our planned re-opening for the beginning of April until such time as it is safe for us to re-open without creating unnecessary risk to our team. We are remaining cautious in our approach for the protection of our team and to protect our ability to be open to provide service. We plan to start with limiting the total number of clients in the building at any one time to a maximum of 4. At this time (and likely for several weeks after we begin to ‘re-open’), in order to come inside the building, every client will be required to complete a pre-screening questionnaire with our team, to wear an appropriate mask, and to practice social distancing from our team and other clients. Our team will remain masked as well. We ask that all clients wear a mask when interacting with our team members, even outside. Clients who choose not to wear a mask will not be permitted inside the building and will be provided curbside service only. Please do not come to our clinic if you are ill and/or have any COVID symptoms.
Generally, only one person per family will be permitted to come in with your pet for the purposes of examining the pet. You will be asked to remain in the exam room while in the building. Once examined, you will be asked to return to your car. Depending on the health status of your pet, they may remain in hospital or stay with you until our veterinarian is ready to discuss a treatment plan. Once our veterinarian has a treatment plan ready to discuss, you may come back to meet with them and pay for the treatment plan you select. You will then return to your car while we treat your pet, or home should your pet be hospitalized. Once your pet is ready to go home and we are fully ready to discharge, you may come back in to get your pet, meet with our team members and complete final payment, as needed.
In the unfortunate circumstance that the treatment decision is to euthanize your pet, we will permit up to 2 family members inside to say goodbye and be with your pet. Larger families can still be accommodated in our outside tent for now.
We recognize that there will be clients who may be immunocompromised or who may not yet be comfortable with the risks associated with interacting with our team inside the clinic. We are happy to continue to provide curbside service that limits interaction for anyone who requests that. Again, our team members will also remain masked for our mutual protection.
To protect our team and our clients, we will continue to utilize the best practice recommendations for optimal health and safety, and infection prevention, including: pre-screening for COVID symptoms, masking requirements, HEPA air filters in exam rooms and common areas, plexiglass shields at reception, increased cleaning practices, and control of traffic inside the clinic.
We appreciate your cooperation as we transition to re-opening our clinic. It has been a very long, hard two years for our team. Please be kind as we do our best to continue to provide quality and compassionate care for Niagara’s pets.
Important Service Update
To our valued clients and industry partners:
There is a significant crisis happening in veterinary medicine that is impacting our ability to continue to keep up with the demand for emergency services. We realize that the public may not be aware of the many factors contributing to this crisis, including:
A quick Google search for “crisis in the veterinary industry” will give you much more detailed information for those who want to better understand what we are facing.
While we have been struggling to meet the demand throughout the pandemic, we are now at a critical point where we anticipate there will be days that we reach capacity and will be unable to take in any additional emergency cases. We are grateful that we have not had to take this step until now, as many other ER clinics across Ontario have been experiencing closures due to being at capacity throughout the pandemic. At this time, we have a critical shortage of veterinarians and may often only have one veterinarian working at a time (when we would usually have 2 or even 3 at a time). This will severely limit the number and type of cases we can see. At times, we may only be able to see the most serious cases. Unfortunately, clients should expect that there will be significant wait times and that pets who are more stable and have less urgent medical concerns may be referred to their regular veterinarian or to other clinics that may be able to provide care.
We are grateful to our member clinics and other Niagara area clinics who are making all attempts to manage their own clients’ emergencies while they are open. You can expect that when we are busy, we will ask you to check with your regular vet first before we accept your case. If your own vet can help, this frees up our team to manage other cases that may not be able to find service elsewhere or are more critical and need immediate care. We recognize this may not be as quick or convenient as everyone would like, or has been in the past, but it is critical that we spread out the demand across all clinics in order to manage it, and that we are able to keep space and resources open for the most serious and critical cases. On behalf of our team and all Niagara area clinics, we ask for your patience, understanding and compassion in recognizing that every veterinary professional is doing their best to work collectively to provide the important care that the pets of Niagara need.
It is heartbreaking for our team to have to turn away pets in need. Together with the fact that now most cases we see are very serious and critical, many resulting in euthanasia, there is a much greater toll on the mental health and wellness of our team. We ask that you treat our team with kindness, compassion and understanding as they do their best in the most difficult circumstances.
In addition to relying on support from referring clinics, we are making the following changes, effective July 5, 2021:
At the present time, we remain closed to clients and are operating with curbside service only. We know that some clinics are opening but, for a variety of reasons, this is not practical for us right now. We will announce any reopening plans as soon as we are able. However, we do have an outdoor space available so that clients are able to be present and distanced from our team during euthanasia.
We hope that this crisis is short-lived, and we look forward to a time in the future when we are able to return to more ‘normal’ operations. In the meantime, thank you for your support and the privilege of caring for your pets when an emergency arises. Much gratitude and appreciation to all our referring clinics for their support.
To our valued clients:
While Niagara Region is on the verge of Phase 3 of reopening during this pandemic, and many businesses are now allowing clients into their buildings, here at NVEC, we will not be opening to the public yet. We want you to understand why, as we know that it is extremely difficult to have to be away from your pet during an emergency.
First and foremost, the health and safety of our team must come first if we are going to be able to continue to remain open 24/7, and we must limit the risk of COVID transmission to our team as best as we are able.
Secondly, if we were to allow clients into the building, we would have to complete full and appropriate cleaning and sanitization after each client. The nature of emergency medicine (vs. visits to your regular veterinarian) is such that the flow of clients coming and going is variable and unpredictable – critical patients may require immediate attention, while less urgent cases may wait for several hours. As our business has increased during the pandemic, both in terms of the number of cases, and severity of cases, managing this flow has become more challenging, and we regularly have more patients (and therefore clients) than could be confined to individual exam rooms. As well, we remain short-staffed and cannot afford to allocate team resources away from answering phones, client communication, operations and animal care to perform the extensive cleaning that would be required to make our building safe for the public.
As the hot weather has started, we will be requesting that less urgent cases spend their ‘wait’ time at home, rather than out in our parking lot. When you call in, our team will triage your pet by phone to determine their status and priority (we may ask you to email photos or videos of your pet to assist with this triage). Your case will be put on our priority list, and you will receive a phone call telling you when to come in. We will continue to manage the flow of cases in the same manner as if you were in the building or in our parking lot – waiting at home simply allows you and your pet to be more comfortable. Should there be any change in your pet’s condition, we ask you to call back immediately and inform our team, who will then advise you about the next steps.
We do have an outdoor space where, if appropriate, we are able to offer you the opportunity to be with your pet in the unfortunate circumstance of euthanasia. That space allows for appropriate physical distancing for the safety of our team.
COVID-19 has been a challenging time for our NVEC Team, as we know it has been for many of you. We have been working on the front lines since the beginning, and have not had any downtime. Our dedicated team has been operating short-staffed for much of the time, and we are busier than we have ever been. Some of them were moved to straight nights, some have worked every single weekend, and many have worked extra overtime hours. Unfortunately, we don’t expect this to change over the summer, so we are simply going to have to do our best with what we have. We know that wait times are going to be increased, and we apologize in advance, but this is simply beyond our control at this point. Please know that our team is working as quickly as they can. Many of our processes take much longer by distance, and unexpected critical, life and death cases can quickly increase wait times for others. While things may look calm at times from outside, on weekends, our team is usually dealing with 10-15 cases at a time. If one veterinarian is in surgery, that leaves one to manage all the rest. Our team will do their best to communicate changes in wait times to you. Please remember that they are tired, burnout, haven’t had any vacation time, but are still here every day because they love what they do, and they are deeply committed to caring for the pets of Niagara.
We ask for your patience, understanding, compassion and kindness as we work with you to provide the important care that your pet needs. Our amazing team is literally giving their all to be here 24/7 when you need us for critical emergencies.
IMPORTANT CHANGES TO SERVICE PROTOCOLS IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19 -- PLEASE READ CAREFULLY
Niagara Veterinary Emergency Clinic provides an important, essential service for the pets, pet owners, and regular veterinarians across Niagara. We want to be able to continue to provide immediate emergency care and support to our clients and their furry family members during the COVID crisis; however, we will only be able to do so as long as our team members remain healthy. We are in unprecedented times, and things are changing day to day. Many businesses, services, schools and workplaces are closing around us, and our community is encouraged to self-isolate right now and avoid any essential reasons to be out in the public.
We know that getting care for your sick or injured pet is an essential service to pet owners, and we will remain open to provide that service. We will continue to provide the highest level of health care for your pets. However, we must now balance the requirement to protect the health and safety of our team members and clients, with our ability to provide the simplest, fastest, and most comfortable level of customer service that we normally strive for. As always, we rigorously follow infection prevention, control and hygiene best practices in our hospital. We have increased both the frequency and scope of hospital cleaning and disinfecting to help ensure both clients and our team are kept safe. We work closely with our team to ensure that anyone who is not feeling well understands that we support them staying home. Our team members care deeply for the clients and pets that we serve and it will be challenging for us to change how we operate, but the health of our team must be paramount if we going to able to continue to operate. These changes will also protect our clients from any unnecessary or inadvertent social contact.
Beginning Tuesday, March 17, we will be instituting new protocols for serving our clients and your pets. Unfortunately, this will increase waiting times for non-critical patients and will make the communication process between you and our team members more challenging in terms of exchanging information, completing paperwork, and processing payment. We ask for your understanding, patience, flexibility and co-operation as we navigate this new landscape. We expect at things progress, it is likely we may be short staffed, and together with the additional work required by these protocols, we expect that we will not be able to deal with the customer service side of things as quickly as we would like. These changes are temporary and we hope that our world returns to normal in the near future.
We are making the following, pre-emptive changes to the way we deliver our care and services:
The interior of our hospital building will be off limits to clients in all but the most critical cases. Where clients are permitted in the building, you will be asked to maintain a minimum of 3 feet distance from our team members, as per the social distancing guidelines, and will be asked to go directly to the examination room and to remain in that room at all times. You will find hand sanitizer in the examination room and we ask that you use it immediately when you enter the room. We may also limit the number of clients to one person per pet, depending on the circumstances and will ask that you limit any personal items being brought into the hospital with you. Our team will be wearing personal protective equipment and will need to maintain appropriate social distancing, and may remind you to do the same. We realize this will be distressing for some clients, and detracts from the personal and compassionate care we take pride in providing, but it is imperative to protect your health and the health of our team.
For pet owners and families making the difficult decision to euthanize their pet, please contact us in advance to discuss how we can best assist your
family. We normally allow unlimited family members and as much time as needed to say goodbye to your pets, but we may have to operate differently out of necessity. We would rather you are aware of that ahead of time so you can make arrangements that suit your family and can ensure that everyone has the opportunity needed to spend final time with their furry family member.
Please call our hospital at 905-641-3185 prior to coming in so we can advise you about our new protocols and what to expect when you arrive.
When you arrive at our hospital please call us at 905-641-3185 from your vehicle and a team member will communicate with you about when to bring your pet to the door. We have a double set of doors with a vestibule in between and there is an intercom phone in that area. Please do
not enter the front doors until you are advised, or if there are other clients in that area. We will post a sign when the area is clean and free to enter.
Please use the intercom or your cell phone to communicate with our team while there. (If you do not have a cell phone, please use the intercom, but wait until the vestibule is free and clean). Our team member will ask you to step back or out (depending on the state/temperament of your pet) when they
come to bring your pet into the hospital to be examined. Please attempt to keep the minimum 3 feet of distance between yourself and our team member at all times. Please return to your vehicle once your pet in inside so the entrance is free to be cleaned for the next client. We will take your information and medical history by phone, and the doctor will discuss treatment options plans with you by phone. You may be asked to come back to the entrance to review/discuss/sign forms.
If needed, forms will be slid under the door and there will be a pen in the entrance for you to use to sign and slide back the form. Payment can be taken using our wireless point-of-sales terminal which our team can leave in the entrance for you. If you wish to make cash payments, we can slide an envelope under the door. We are also able to accept e-transfers.
To protect our clients, we will be disinfecting the entrance area between each client, including the intercom phone, the pen, and our point-of-sales
terminal. Any examination room used by clients will be disinfected immediately. During busier times, overnights, and when we are short staff, there may
be a delay between clients to allow for time to clean this area. Please respect the signage about whether this area is clean, for your own protection.
This is obviously not how we would prefer to operate our business, and unfortunately there will be some delays and inconvenience. We sincerely appreciate your patience and understanding.
*** If you are feeling unwell, have traveled out of the country in the past 14 days, if someone in your immediate family has traveled out of the country in the past 14 days, have a fever, respiratory symptoms, have COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone that may have symptoms suspicious for COVID-19, please do not come to our hospital. Rather, please call us so that we can discuss alternatives for having your pet transported for care and so that we can liaise directly with the care giver who will be bringing your pet in.
We encourage everyone to follow the Public Health Agency of Canada (https://www.canada.ca/…/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.ht…),
the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/emergen…/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019), and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (https://wsava.org/…/the-new-coronavirus-and-companion-anim…/) for the most up-to-date and accurate information about COVID-19.
These measures may seem extreme at this time, but we are communicating with our member clinics, and monitoring best practices at other hospitals, and working hard to take the most proactive measures we can to ensure that we will be able to continue to operate; particularly, as there may be an increased need for our services if other clinics are forced to close.
Please help us to keep our team, their families, our clients, and our community a safer place.