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Only one after-hours vet remains open in the ACT

By Olivia Ireland
Operations manager Skye Halls, reception manager Lesia Matvieieva, business manager Claire De Candia vet nurse manager and Sarah Cropper. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

An after hours vet hospital is experiencing crippling demand at night as they are the only 24 hour service publicly available in the ACT.

Animal Referral Hospital Canberra in Pialligo has temporarily declared they are running at limited capacity for their after hours services from May 6 until June 30, leaving Canberra Veterinary Emergency Services in Gungahlin the only night time emergency practice publicly available in the territory and surrounding regions.

Claire De Candia is the business manager of the Gungahlin vet and says as soon as the other practice made their services limited on Friday, "the increased amount of pressure and workload started" almost instantly.

"The increased workload comes with space, at times we haven't had enough cage space so we're running out of room as well with the increased demand which we didn't obviously see," she said.

Veterinary nurse manager Sarah Cropper echoes the "pressure has been ongoing" as the Pialligo practice has had "ongoing intermediate closures" but this instance is a longer period of time.

"We're trying to basically look after all of Canberra's out of hour services and surrounds such as Goulburn as well," she said.

It's led to the practice having to prioritise procedures as some animals are sent home with pain relief and have been told to wait until they can access their regular general practice vet, but Ms Cropper says "clients are struggling to get into GP clinics".

"Many clients say to me that they would rather be seen by us because they're so worried about getting an appointment at a GP," she said.

The demand for their services has meant wait times can stretch out from two to six hours for the practice as clients bring their sick or injured animals.

"It just depends on the amount of clients presenting to us at any given time because we work on triage, it's emergency, we don't know what's going to be coming down, we don't know what's going to be coming inside," Ms De Candia said.

Ms Cropper said clients have been "relatively good" at understanding the situation is out of their control as they try to "accommodate all of Canberra".

"Pets are unwell and sick and often it might be considered urgent so we know it's a really stressful time for clients," she said.

The director of Animal Referral Hospital Canberra, Jacob Michelson, said they are still open to referrals at specialist services including surgery, oncology and medicine, with hospitalised animals still receiving overnight care from their onsite vet and nursing team.

"The national vet shortage has greatly affected the veterinary community in Canberra and has meant our emergency department is running at limited capacity and, as a result, we cannot currently take in new patients after-hour," he said.

"We care greatly about our patients and want to help as many as possible, however unfortunately there are simply not enough vets and nurses to service the increasing demand for veterinary services."

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Dive Deeper:
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One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
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Get all your news in one place