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Anger rises after a significant change in pet emergency care for Grey Bruce announced

It appears that many in Grey Bruce area with family pets are angry over the sudden change in emergency health care for their members of the family.

To most, pets are just that, members of the family.

VetStrategy, a company based in Woodstock (ON) has acquired many of the local veterinary clinics in the region and has significantly changed the emergency after-hours medical care.

  • Southampton Pet Hospital
  • Port Elgin Veterinary Clinic
  • Sunset Strip Veterinary Clinic
  • Owen Sound Veterinary Clinic
  • Grey Bruce Pet Hospital
  • North Heritage Animal Hospital
  • Wiarton Animal Hospital
  • Sauble Beach Pet Hospital

Given the geographical expanse of Grey-Bruce counties, and the often unpredictable weather conditions, emergency situations for after-hours pet health care can be critical and unattainable under the new changes.

In a recent notice to existing clients of local veterinary clinics, VetStrategy said that,

We continue to encourage owners to seek timely care during regular hours for urgent, chronic or changing medical conditions whenever possible, as this avoids the need to travel outside the area for the treatment of such conditions.

In the notice to clients, VetStrategy says that, If your pet does require in-person care, it will be necessary to travel outside of the Grey Bruce area.

One local family said that, “No-one can predict an emergency and unfortunately, an emergency is just that and requires emergency care regardless of the time of day.”

Another client said, “Do these people (VetStrategy) have any idea of the geography of Bruce and Grey Counties?  Do they have a clue of what they are asking pet owners to do to drive to an emergency clinic?

Travel outside of the Grey Bruce area, as set out in the notice means a travel of two to three hours, weather permitting:

VetStrategy Notice to clients: (provided by a local resident)

“We recommend that you save the contact information and familiarize yourself with the location of your closest after-hours hospital:

Huronia Veterinary Emergency Clinic 705-722-0377 391 Dunlop St W, Barrie, ON, L4N 1C3

Campus Estates Animal Hospital 519-837-1212 1460 Gordon St, Guelph, ON, N1L 1C8

Mississauga Oakville Veterinary Emergency Hospital 905-829-9444 2285 Bristol Cir, Oakville, ON, L6H 6P8

404 Veterinary Emergency and Referral Hospital 905-953-1933 510 Harry Walker Pkwy S, Newmarket, ON, L3Y 0B3

Veterinary Emergency, Urgent Care and Referral Clinic of York Region 905-953-5351 1210 Journey’s End Cir, Newmarket, ON L3Y 8Z6

Veterinary Emergency Clinic of Toronto 416-920-2002 920 Yonge St Suite 117, Toronto, ON, M4W 3C7

Toronto Animal Health Partners 416-380-7400 1 Scarsdale Rd, North York, ON M3B 2R2

Vaughan-Richmond Hill Veterinary Emergency Clinic 905-884-1832 10303 Yonge St, Richmond Hill, ON L4C 3B9

These changes will become effective on Wednesday, November 15, 2023

We understand how stressful it can be when your pet suffers an emergency outside regular office hours. To help reduce your stress, we would like to provide guidance on how you should seek medical care if an emergency arises.

With the advancement of telemedicine virtual consultation, you will continue to be able to speak with a trusted team of RVTs and Veterinarians through SmartVet’s virtual pet care services, available to all pet owners 24/7. They will help you determine if your pet requires an in-person emergency visit. If your pet does require in-person care, it will be necessary to travel outside of the Grey Bruce area.

How to Access After-Hours Emergency Pet Care

  1. If you have concerns and believe your pet is suffering from an urgent or emergency condition, please contact our clinic at (519) 797-2960.
  2. If our clinic is not open at the time, please follow the instructions on the voicemail message and you will be directed to an emergency triage service. You will speak directly to an Ontario Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT), who will ask you some basic questions about your pet’s situation. This step may take a few minutes to complete. 
  3. The RVT will help determine if your pet is suffering from a life-threatening emergency that requires an in-person examination immediately. If they do require immediate care, the RVT will arrange a transfer to the facility most suitable to your pet’s expected level of care and provide you with further instructions.
  4. If the RVT feels your pet’s condition may be able to be addressed without an in-person emergency visit, they will assist you in setting up a virtual appointment with an Ontario-based veterinarian. This means that the RVT does not feel your pet is currently suffering from an immediate life-threatening condition. The RVT will aid you in setting up an account that meets the legal requirements for the provision of veterinary medicine in Ontario. Accepted methods of payment include Credit Card, Debit Card or e-transfer and will be required to proceed further through the triage process. This step may also take several minutes. 
  5. You will then be placed in a queue for your virtual consultation. We understand that this wait can be stressful for owners. It is important to note that if your pet experiences a new symptom or change in condition during this wait, you are able to contact the RVT again, and your place in the queue may be re-assessed. Otherwise, please be patient and know that if your pet is waiting for a consultation, that is a good thing! It means their emergency situation has not been deemed life-threatening.
  6. During your virtual consultation, the veterinarian will further assess your pet. This may mean requesting a video or photos to aid in the process. This veterinarian may be able to prescribe certain medications for your pet, which would allow you to avoid the unnecessary cost and travel time for an in-person visit. Their records and treatment will be sent to us the next business day so we can proceed with any follow-up for further treatment required. 
  7. At the end of your consultation, if the virtual veterinarian believes that your pet should be seen in person, they will arrange a transfer to the facility most suitable to your pet’s expected level of care and provide you with further instructions.

We understand that this process is much different from how emergency care was previously accessed in our area. As the demand for veterinary medical care evolves, these changes allow us to continue to provide care for our patients during regular business hours. We continue to encourage owners to seek timely care during regular hours for urgent, chronic or changing medical conditions whenever possible, as this avoids the need to travel outside the area for the treatment of such conditions. 

We also understand that this change may be inconvenient for some of our clients, but we believe it is essential to maintain the quality and consistency of our services during our regular business hours. Rest assured that our commitment to the well-being of your pets remains unwavering, and we trust that SmartVet will provide the exceptional care your pets deserve in emergency situations.

We appreciate your understanding and continued trust in our veterinary clinic. Thank you for allowing us to care for your beloved pets.

We look forward to serving you and your furry family members during our regular hours and continue to provide them with the best care possible.”

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