I manage a cat rescue in Rochester, NY. Recently, we learned that the emergency hospital is going to be permanently closing in a few weeks. They have already restricted their hours greatly. This is very concerning to all rescuers - we see the worst cases that often need emergency care.
The closing of our emergency hospital is putting a lot of pressure on hospitals in neighboring cities such as Buffalo and Syracuse. Those hospitals are even referring patients to Ohio and Pennsylvania. Quite frankly, I'm terrified. If we have an emergency happen with one of our fosters overnight, I keep thinking "what will we do?" We also have to worry about what to do if our fosters need immediate help when no one is receiving patients locally.
Have any of you been in a similar position? How do you navigate not having access to veterinary care after hours? Do you have partnerships with vets in your area that you can call after hours for emergencies? How do you not panic in these situations? Lastly, if you know your foster isn't doing great and needs immediate care but won't make it to the emergency vet that's hours away, what do you do? This is my biggest fear. I don't want a foster to suffer.
We're in Albany NY and are fortunate to have a dedicated 24 hour emergency clinic still and a specialty vet that has some availability for after hours emergency issues, although that has been more limited recently. But both are being stretched thin due to another emergency clinic 1 hour away having closed. The waits are exceedingly long, even with proper triage, just because of volume. I am terrified of losing even one of these resources and am frankly worried about the pressure being placed on routine daytime care. Our small rescue has the good fortune to have sporadic access to 3 veterinarians off hours who will help us do our own triage by phone and text and messenger to help keep us out of the emergency vet hospitals and let us make it until morning. Which, of course, adds more pressure to our regular daytime vets, but is the best we can do to try to release some of the pressure on the system overall.
I am also in Rochester and this is definitely a huge concern. This doesn't solve the problem, but I am aware that more and more veterinary telehealth services are being utilized. I've been reading about one of these services, VetTriage, that Brockport Animal Hospital is now using. This could at least fill in the gap of having an after hours veterinarian available to assist fosters in determining if a medical situation does need emergency care. I would also recommend having fosters take animal first aid courses so they feel equipped to administer supportive care that could make a life or death difference in between the time of the incident and being able to be seen by a vet. Obviously these are all sort of "band-aid measures" for this veterinary crisis, but they can at least help fosters feel a little more empowered during this time and take some of the burden off already overwhelmed clinics by assessing via telehealth.
Hi Amie and all,
We are feeling the squeeze here in Ithaca, NY, with all of those Rochester emergencies coming our way for several months now. This has extended triage times for animals at Cornell's emergency room and my work whenever they need an emergency "shelter med" consultation. As a "daytime" shelter vet, I strongly recommend 1) creating emergency treatment and evaluation protocols that your rescue's medical staff can use when these kittens are sick. (Daytime or Nighttime) These protocols are designed and approved by your veterinarian of record, and might include taking a temp, a blood glucose, running a parvo snap, giving fluids, warming with an incubator or warmies, giving a dose of antibiotics, etc. Once nursed through the night with supportive care, the kitten could be seen by a vet in the morning. This process would also go hand in hand with clear euthanasia protocols (stop points), and getting folks at your shelter euthanasia certified if not already. It will be important to create a reasonable schedule for any person on the medical team who would be "on call" for foster parents after hours, and trading off :on call" in a way that fosters can always reliably reach someone (eg. passing a phone around)
2) Creating a foster training process that emphasizes the importance of bringing kittens in for seemingly minor issues (diarrhea, not eating, losing weight) *during daytime hours* to prevent the need for emergency treatment later. This is an extremely efficient and welfare-enhancing way to prevent kitten emergencies. Create the culture that no issue is too small, that every kitten gets weighed daily, and enjoy the healthy kitten rechecks. This foster care culture is paired with top-notch intake preventive protocols such as thorough intake and regular deworming, vaccination, and ectoparasite control, and staff-implementable (vet approved) protocols for common issues such as diarrhea and weight loss.
3) Reaching out to veterinarians in your community to see what services might be on offer. This could include training for your foster parents (practice giving SQ fluids!) and shelter tours to try to increase vet engagement. Would a few of them be willing to occasionally be on call for the shelter? If not, would their technicians be willing to help? Familiarity with your premise grants a VCPR in the same way that large animal vets have VCPRs with dairies and farms- not individual animals, allowing for a greater telemedicine leeway in shelter med-- at least in NY State!
Best of luck and let us know how it goes,
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