Dear Valued Clients,
We’re once again asking for your help and understanding. As you may know, back in September we implored all clients to simply be nice to our staff in an open letter after a spike in unacceptable behavior. The positive response to that letter was heartwarming, and we were and are extremely grateful.
All summer and fall, we were extremely busy. During that period, we saw more patients and new clients than we ever have before. We’re still seeing a lot of clients, both new and returning.
As we’ve moved back into cold & flu season, we’ve had employees out of work due to illness, though that happens every year. However, when this is coupled with the ongoing Covid situation, we find that the backup well is dry and we have nobody to fill in.
We’re taking every precaution to protect our staff, doctors and clients. We’ve done so from the beginning—as a business and an industry, we’re used to cleaning and sanitizing regularly, so that part really hasn’t been a big change. Staffing, on the other hand, has been a constant struggle. Many veterinary practices, locally and nationally, were already experiencing a pre-Covid staffing shortage, and we were no different. When the risk of Covid transmission at work is thrown into the picture, those already-present staffing shortages are painfully exacerbated.
All it takes is an employee spending 15 minutes around a friend or family member who soon thereafter gets a positive Covid test (or develops certain Covid-like symptoms which haven’t been medically determined to be due to a different cause—which usually means receiving a negative Covid test to get around the problem), and that employee has to isolate for a minimum of 14 days, unable to come to work. If the source of exposure is someone with whom the employee has ongoing close contact (e.g., a household member), this 14 day isolation period is greatly extended – it could last for a month or more.
To complicate the picture further, when an employee tests positive for Covid or shows certain symptom constellations associated with Covid, any other employees who were in close contact with that employee during their contagious window must also isolate (can’t come to work). On top of that, for a variety of reasons, employees may be more reluctant to accept shifts during local Covid flares.
On top of the crisis of being understaffed, our remaining employees are all too often working at absolute capacity for weeks on end. As columnist Dr. Patty Khuly wrote at Veterinary Practice News, “I’ve heard it from all over the country: We’re overworked!”
Being one employee down is difficult for a practice (particularly when already short-handed), but when there are several out at once—including doctors—and everyone remaining is exhausted from overwork, something has to give.
As Covid cases continue to spike in Washtenaw County, please expect that we may not be able to consistently offer all of the services we typically do. We may have to reschedule things more often than we have before. We’re still doing our best to accommodate all of our clients, but we’re asking (again) for patience and understanding when we can’t.
To read a bit about what the veterinary field as a whole is and has been going through, take a look at this compilation from Today’s Veterinary Business.
To recap, here’s what we’re dealing with at AAAH:
- After our busiest summer ever, we’re still dealing with unusually high numbers of patients, including those from new clients (which is wonderful—we strongly appreciate your support and the trust you put in us—but also means there is a high level of need which must be met by a relatively smaller staff).
- Seasonal illnesses (cold & flu, upper respiratory, etc.) are back. Many of these cases must (at least initially) be treated as a potential Covid case (thus, isolations), further depleting an already strained veterinary workforce.
- We have to have our employees isolate—for at least 14 days, but in some cases it could be for upwards of a month—when someone they’ve had close contact with tests positive for Covid. If an employee has had close contact with other employees within their contagious window, several employees can easily end up in isolation simultaneously.
- We need clients to be understanding about what services we can (or cannot) offer at any given time.
Again, we really appreciate the support we’ve received from our clients over these difficult months. It’s been our honor and privilege to continue to care for your beloved pets.
The Doctors, Veterinary Technicians, Veterinary Assistants, Client Care Specialists, & Management Team at Ann Arbor Animal Hospital