Veterinarians in Cobourg and Port Hope practices will no longer offer after-hours and weekend service as of May 20. According to Cobourg resident Jane Penney, the important thing is for people to be aware in advance that, should their pets require emergency care during those off-hours, they will be referred to Peterborough.
A recent Northumberland Today advertisement carried the announcement that these practices are referring clients to the Kawartha Veterinary Emergency Clinic in Peterborough (1840 Lansdowne St. W., Unit 1B) for care outside of regular business hours. But Penney is concerned that many pet owners may have missed the ad and its import.
As an owner of four cats (13-year-old John, 12-year-old Tom, three-year-old Mr. Skittles and one-year-old Belle), Penney visits her vet regularly. For the most part, however, pet owners might not be in a vet office for months on end, so they would miss any sign or notification posted there.
She is urging these people to make a note of the Peterborough clinic's address and phone number (1-705-741-5832), because it would be traumatic to discover this news during a crisis when they think help is close to home.
It will likely be traumatic anyway, she reasoned, making that long drive to Peterborough with a distressed animal -- maybe in the dark of night, maybe during bad weather. Maybe they don't drive or, for whatever reason (like the kind of medical condition Penney has), can't drive at night. That person must then impose on friends or relatives to help, or possibly face up to an expensive cab ride.
Penney is luckier than most in that, as a trained pharmacist, she can do things for a pet many people can't, from applying a compression bandage to making a knowledgeable assessment as to whether treatment for a sick animal could wait until morning.
As one who plans ahead, she has already made her own enquiries at the Kawartha clinic, where consulting and office fees are $120 plus HST ($156) before any treatment is even rendered. For a pet kept overnight, you must return at 8 a.m. to take it away, because the clinic's weeknight hours are 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. and no one is there during the day.
"They will get your animal comfortably in your car, but you must clear it out," Penney said. She is very impressed with the clinic's emergency-medicine credentials. She even compared it to having Sunnybrook Hospital in your backyard -- if you live in Peterborough.
The difficulty, expense and distress will hit the aging population of Port Hope and Cobourg especially hard, she predicted. But it would be even worse if it came as a surprise.
"Every person I have talked to has not seen the ad," she stated. Dr. Brent Steele of the Midtown Animal Hospital in Cobourg said that the expertise available at the Kawartha Clinic could make a life-or-death difference for a pet. In the past, Steele and his colleagues have often referred complex cases to a similar
emergency vet clinic in Whitby, "so this is an expansion of what we have been doing already."Along with Midtown, other clinics making the move include the Ganaraska Animal Clinic and Port Hope Veterinary Hospital in Port Hope, as well as the Pine Ridge Veterinary Clinic and Strathy Road Animal Hospital in Cobourg.
"The main reason behind the transfer is, we have been becoming more and more dissatisfied with the level of care we are able to provide for patients after hours," Steele said.
"Basically, we are primary-care vets and technicians on call, but for people with true emergencies -- pets hit by car or poisonings -- we weren't seeing them anyway. People would come and pay us $140 to see them, and we'd be transferring them elsewhere where they pay again. It was like a duplication.
"It's more cost-effective for the client (to go directly to Kawartha or Whitby), but the main thing is, if we need to put a cat or a dog on IV fluids, we would also have to be around to monitor them and then go to work the next day.
"This is better care at comparable cost and, in some cases, not duplicating fees."The previous arrangement had been to rotate the after-hours and weekend duty among local vets.
The turning point was having a second emergency clinic open that made it more feasible to be able to offer exceptional after-hours and weekend care, Steele said, "and at the end of the day, it's all about the best care. They can do much better than we can. They have techs and doctors all the time when they're open, which is not the case (locally).
"We appreciate some people may not be happy, simply for convenience, and we understand that. But for us, the increased benefit of improved patient care offsets that. At the end of the day, the patient is receiving a higher level of after-hours care than we can provide, and that was the driving force behind this."Note: Emergency pet care is also offered at Northumberland Veterinary Service in Colborne.