Business tumbles at many N.Y. veterinary hospitals
51% see caseloads decline by at least half as the coronavirus emergency continues.
While nearly all New York State veterinary practices have remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic, caseloads have dropped by more than 50% at half of the hospitals surveyed.
The New York State Veterinary Medical Society found that 3% of clinics surveyed were closed as of March 25, a rise of 1 percentage point from March 18. Over the same period, practices that reported business declines of more than 50% rose from 8% to 51%.
The falloff in business coincided with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo telling state residents to stay at home as much as possible to help fight the coronavirus crisis. Many businesses were ordered closed, but veterinary practices were classified as “essential” and exempt.
“Some of you are concerned that the new guidelines … give veterinarians too much freedom to operate,” Veterinary Medical Society executive director Tim Atkinson wrote to members March 23. “I think that a better way to view the breadth of these new guidelines is that the N.Y. State government is putting more trust in veterinarians to make the right decisions about balancing the health of animals, public health, and the health of their staff and clients.”
Of the practices surveyed, 37% were taking emergency cases only as of March 25, up from 9% one week earlier. Four out of five hospitals were allowing pets to be dropped off only, leaving clients on the outside.
For practices considering performing essential duties only, the Veterinary Medical Society advised members to ask themselves:
- “Will unjustifiable pain, suffering or death result if the service is delayed?”
- “Does rendering the service support an essential business or function? For example, dog boarding may permit a first responder or medical worker to go to work for extended shifts.”
- “Does the service support public health and/or curb infectious disease in companion animal populations? Examples are rabies and parvovirus vaccinations.”
Among other survey findings from March 25:
- 35% of clinics asked the Veterinary Medical Society for information about short-term loans.
- 25% had laid off employees.
- 32% reported that their staffs were “all healthy and attending.”
Atkinson told members that turning away some patients could help conserve personal protection equipment “needed for more urgent animal and human cases.”
“For example,” he wrote, “just because the guidelines say you can still spay/neuter, that does not mean that these operations should continue at full capacity.”
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