Why establish a 24-hour veterinary ER?
When Ann Arbor Animal Hospital owner Linda Griebe graduated from veterinary school (Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine) and came to Ann Arbor in the 1970s, each veterinary practice was responsible for their own emergency calls. The DVMs would rotate being the “area veterinarian” to handle their own calls as well as those of any other doctor who wanted an uninterrupted night of sleep or just a few hours off duty to attend personal matters.
In the event of an emergency, the veterinarian on duty would receive a page from the service which answered for the various animal hospitals. If not at home, they would have to find a phone (this was way before cell phones!), call the answering service to get the nature of the emergency and contact information, call the pet owner, evaluate if the animal was OK to wait to be seen the next day or needed attention right away, drive to meet the client at the veterinary hospital and (usually with no support staff) attend to the sick or injured pet. Once the animal was treated and stabilized, it would either be sent home with the owner or hospitalized for ongoing care.
This scenario could be repeated several times in a given night or over a weekend. Unfortunately, there was not a 24-hour attendant so most patients were left by themselves once treatments were completed. It was not unheard of for doctors to sleep at the hospital or take a pet to their home for supervision in extreme cases.
ER care before 24-hour clinics
In the 1980s, recognizing that this was not ideal, area veterinarians established an animal emergency clinic which had a veterinarian on duty from 6pm to 8am weekdays, weekends and holidays to take emergency cases. Now there was a specific place with emergency personnel on duty where pet owners could be directed. The problem was that the facility was not open during the day so owners had to pick up their pets by 8am and transfer them to their own doctor for ongoing care. Then, if the animal was severely ill or injured and needed continued supportive care, the owner had to transport their pet back to the emergency clinic when the day practice closed for the evening.
This was certainly an improvement in veterinary emergency care from the long time periods it could take for the owner to contact and meet up with the DVM and no (or little) overnight supervision, but still not best for the animal and a definite inconvenience for the owner if their pet had to be moved back and forth.
A new facility, a new approach to ER care
In the early 2000s, when the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital needed a new facility (the business had been in a converted house since the 1930s and was in desperate need of more space and modern facilities), 24-hour emergency care was central to the new building vision. The design included a glass-walled intensive care unit with heated cages, oxygen drops, fluid pumps and space for large dogs. It was positioned alongside the general treatment area so animals could be monitored at all times. The operating room was also designed to include glass around the middle part of the wall so the support staff and surgical team could maintain visual contact. Holding cages were placed along one wall of the treatment area for animals needing supervision but not in need of ICU space.
By creating this emergency service, our patients can receive 24-hour care in one location. Patient records and medical histories with previous laboratory results, radiographs, responses to therapy, drug allergies, etc. are readily accessible.
We now truly are “Always here, Always ready, Always caring.”