Staff shortages change vet teaching hospital emergency hours

Piper Russell

Two vets treating an animal
A dog receives medical attention at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences).

The Colorado State University James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital recently cut down hours due to staffing shortages in the small animal emergency and urgent care service.

From Oct. 3-31, the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital will not accept new emergency small animal patients, including dogs, cats and exotic animals, overnight from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. However, the small animal emergency and urgent care service remains open during the day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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The staffing numbers we used to have worked really well for the caseload we used to have, but those staffing numbers haven’t been able to grow whereas the caseload has really grown — it’s almost quadrupled over the past two or three years.” –Amanda Cavanagh, assistant professor of small animal emergency and critical care 

“We’ve been short on veterinarians (and) technicians, as well as the front desk staff, so we decided to only see new emergencies between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.,” said Amanda Cavanagh, assistant professor of small animal emergency and critical care at CSU.

Cavanagh runs the urgent care program at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

The CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital is still available to admit current clients of the hospital if they have emergencies and is still open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“We wanted the general public to know that we were going to be very limited in the evening during the month of October,” said Kristen Browning-Blas, director of communications and marketing for the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Browning-Blas said the Veterinary Teaching Hospital coordinated with other veterinary hospitals in the area to ensure emergency coverage was available.

The hour changes are a result of staff shortages. Cavanagh explained the Veterinary Teaching Hospital has many staff positions open, including veterinarians, veterinary technicians and receptionists. Some staff members have also taken time off in October, which has contributed to the shortages.

“It’s just really hard to hire employees right now,” Cavanagh said. “And so you know, between those open positions and a few of our staff taking some leave in October, we just decided we didn’t have enough staff to run a safe 24/7 operation.”

Cavanagh spoke about how the increase in caseload, which has steadily risen over the past two to three years, could have contributed to the hour changes.

“The staffing numbers we used to have worked really well for the caseload we used to have, but those staffing numbers haven’t been able to grow, whereas the caseload has really grown — it’s almost quadrupled over the past two or three years,” Cavanagh said.

Cavanagh also spoke about the impact staff shortages have had on the remaining staff.

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“The people who do work at the hospital are working really, really hard right now,” Cavanagh said. “We’re working long hours, and when we are at work, the work is very challenging and very busy.”

Browning-Blas said the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital plans to return to 24/7 emergency coverage in November.

“We do it because we really enjoy our job and we like helping the animals and helping the community,” Cavanagh said.

Piper Russell can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @PiperRussell10.