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The financial impact of COVID-19 for veterinary clinics

Dear Editor,
The COVID-19 outbreak has affected every aspect of our lives and impacted every sector of business and social interactions. In every region of the world, there has been a significant impact on employment and a downward spiral of the local economy. The harsh reality is that veterinary care is a business, and just as is the case for any other business, clients often provide the revenue for survival.

Unfortunately, in many Third World countries, vets lack basic resources and financial stability. Imagine what the situation is now, since pet owners have become less able to afford healthcare for their animals. They barely have enough money to feed themselves, much less to look after the welfare of their pets.

This, together with many other factors, has resulted in a significant reduction in the little revenue for veterinary services, especially in these struggling times. Many times vets have no choice but to allow clients to pay later, if they can ever pay back at all.

Although there have been specific government assistance programs set in place to assist members of the public affected by the pandemic, specifically in the public sector, there has been nothing allotted for veterinary clinics in the private sector.

So, what is the situation like when your business has been consistently designated as an essential healthcare business, but is facing financial constraints? Oftentimes, people cannot afford to pay for veterinary services (consultation, check-up, medications, treatments, spaying, neutering).

However, pets get sick on a daily basis; the vet is called, and he or she selflessly invests his time, medicine and expertise to conduct a thorough examination, just to hear, “Doc, I am low on cash. I don’t have that much money; I still need to feed myself/family and I cannot afford the bill”.

The vet’s compassionate and empathetic nature does not allow him or her to turn down any client, and to deny any pet a fair opportunity for survival, even though he or she is diverting precious and limited clinic funds to help a distressed animal clinging to life, or provide a better future to a pet that needs to be spayed/neutered because the owner cannot afford to take care of any more young ones.

It’s a very sad situation when clients know the value of the vet services/expertise, but only a few can really afford to pay for half of the services. Yet, the vet still has his own expenses and bills to take care of. So there is the need to cut back the practice, and if the vet cannot provide the level of care that he or she wants, the vet eventually might be forced to close the business. This economic meltdown has discouraged many pet owners from spending money on non-emergency services such as routine veterinarian visits, which aids in the daily running of clinics.

Becoming a part of the Roaring Creek Veterinary Clinic, owned by Dr. Orlando Baptist, DVMZ, a wonderful human being with a heart of gold, was the start of a highly reflective period in my life, teaching me that veterinary professionals are already stressed out emotionally.

It is more important now than ever to evaluate how these essential workers can be supported during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Dr. Baptist has often been part of spayaton initiatives such as Helping Paws Across Borders, which is comprised of veterinarians who volunteer their precious and valuable time year after year to provide quality medical care to poverty-stricken areas for no cost.

Imagine, that is to show us the kind of person he is.

Earning a living as a veterinarian is directly tied to the financial success of a business, and the disruption caused by the pandemic has had a large impact on all businesses, including veterinary practice. It can be assumed that financial concerns are amplified, as financial issues have been in the forefront of veterinary clinics in Third World countries for some time, and with all the unknowns in these extraordinary times, these concerns have become intensified.

So, remember that it is important to support your vets. Next time you visit a vet clinic, remember to be kind and mindful; they are fighting a battle no one knows about, and try your best to pay your fees.

Everyone can save a 100 cats/dogs by spaying or neutering your pet and aiding in controlling the animal population. This pandemic is affecting everyone, even animals, so do the right thing.

Ms. Mirtha Welch (BPSM)

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