Penticton residents are calling for after hour animal care but a vet shortage means that won't be coming anytime soon. (Pixaby)

A call for after-hour vet care in Penticton can’t be met with crisis level vet shortages

Kelowna is only option for pet emergencies in all of Okanagan

Several years ago, Penticton resident Karyn Walker had to rush her dog to Kelowna for emergency care at 10:30 p.m. after her pup was bitten by a black widow.

With no after-hours animal care offered in Penticton, her only option was to make the one-hour drive to Kelowna’s Fairfield Animal Hospital – the only emergency hospital in the Okanagan.

The demand for after-hours emergency vet care hasn’t changed since Walker’s incident, which is why Penticton residents are calling for a change.

However, a current provincial vet shortage means increasing after-hours care won’t be happening anytime soon, if ever, says the College of Veterinarians of B.C.

Animal lover Helen Valee wants to see 24/7 emergency veterinarian care offered in Penticton so people don’t have to travel an hour away to Kelowna in the middle of the night, under very stressful circumstances. Some locals have had their pet die on the drive there.

“A friend’s cat had an apparent stroke on Christmas Day. When she called her veterinary office she received a message that they would not be open until Jan. 4. So, the problem is not just after hours and weekends, it includes week closures over the Christmas break.”

Even Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki, who has pets himself, made a motion at a recent council meeting asking for Penticton veterinarians to offer emergency after-hours care.

But the situation in South Okanagan, and across B.C. is only going to get worse, not better, according to both the BC SPCA and the College of Veterinarians of B.C.

Vet shortage at crisis levels

The current shortage is at such a crisis, Penticton could see a shortage in veterinary services after doctors retire or burn out, said the BC SPCA and the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia (CVBC).

“With the current shortage of veterinarians, the next step for Penticton could very well be having almost no veterinary service as practices cannot find veterinarians to hire to provide the service, cover vacations or personal injury time, or to eventually sell their practices to when they need to retire,” said Jane Pritchard, interim register for the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia (CVBC).

On April 22, the BC SPCA launched a pledge campaign asking the provincial government to provide funding for 20 additional spaces for B.C. students at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) – B.C.’s regional vet school in Saskatoon, Sask.

“The demand for veterinary services in B.C. already outstrips the number of vets available, and this situation is only going to get more urgent,” said Craig Daniell, chief executive officer of the BC SPCA. “Not only does this put our pets and other animals at risk, but the shortage has led to increasing levels of exhaustion, burn-out and, sadly, suicide, within the veterinary profession.”

With people adopting ‘COVID’ pets at a rate never seen before, this puts additional pressure on an already tapped-out system.

The Penticton Western News contacted three different veterinarians in Penticton and none responded to a request for comment.

Short 100

vets per year

A labour market study conducted by the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training in 2019 indicated that B.C. would be short 100 veterinarians per year for each of the subsequent five years, culminating in a shortage of 500 veterinarians by 2024.

“The shortage is particularly serious outside of urban areas, where access to veterinary care is already limited and in fields of specialization, such as large animal care.”

Daniell explained that B.C. has an opportunity to alleviate the growing vet shortage by providing government funding to support 20 additional spaces for B.C. veterinary students at Western College.

“B.C. currently has 20 designated spaces at the college, but in 2018 the province of Alberta, which has its own college, decided to relinquish the 20 spots it had at Western. The Society of B.C. Veterinarians have requested that these spots be made available for B.C. veterinary students,” said Daniell.

He went on to say the key issue is funding as veterinary students pay part of their tuition, with the balance of funding coming from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.

“We are urging the provincial government to protect B.C. animals by providing funding for B.C. students to access the 20 open spaces at Western – a cost of approximately $8.3 million annually.”

SPCA RELIES ON VETS TO TREAT ABUSED, INJURED ANIMALS

Without action to address the increasing vet shortage, both animals and people are at risk.

“We are already seeing the negative impact on animals, as access to veterinary care diminishes,” said Danielle. “This includes both individual pet owners and rescue groups such as the BC SPCA, which rely heavily on support from veterinarians in saving the lives of abused and neglected animals.”

To sign the BC SPCA’s pledge to support training for B.C. veterinarians, visit spca.bc.ca/vet-shortage.

However, it should be known that veterinarians are independent business persons, stated Pritchard.

“CVBC regulates that they are competent in what they offer to the public and ethical in their dealings with the public. We cannot force overworked veterinarians to work more hours. The provision of after hours care is a business decision made by each practice facility.”

READ ALSO: SPCA seize over 100 animals in Princeton

Pets

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

Danny Fulton receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 27. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
All adults in Rutland, Summerland now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Province expands age range to 18+ for vaccinations in ‘high transmission’ areas

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Penticton RCMP search for 2 suspicious men

Police searching the area of Arawana Forest Service Road

The Penticton Vees concluded the shortened 2021 pod season Sunday, May 9 in winning fashion against the Cranbrook Bucks at the South Okanagan Events Centre. (Cheri Morgan photography)
VIDEO: Penticton Vees end pod season atop BCHL standings with 18 wins in 20 games

The Vees collected their 18th win of the season Sunday night against the Cranbrook Bucks

Dust control is underway this week in parts of Osoyoos. (Contributed)
Dust control work gets underway in Osoyoos, with a warning for pets

Pets should stay off the product for the first six hours after it is applied

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

The southern mountain caribou, an iconic species for the Splatsin First Nation, is threatened with extinction, much to the dismay of the First Nation. (Province of B.C. photo)
Okanagan First Nation band concerned over dwindling caribou herd

Southern mountain caribou at risk of extinction, much to dismay of Splatsin First Nation near Enderby

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
UPDATE: Winfield road open following police, coroner investigation

Pelmewash Parkway closure near Highway 97 connection

Kelowna resident Sally Wallick helped rescue a kayaker in distress a week and a half ago. (Sally Wallick/Contributed)
VIDEO: Kelowna woman rescues capsized kayaker in Okanagan Lake

Sally Wallick is asking people to be prepared for the cold water and unpredictable winds

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

RCMP (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
High-risk takedown on Highway 1 following Shuswap shooting

Upon further investigation, the vehicle and its occupants were not associated with the shooting

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Most Read