ALEXANDRIA, VA – To help ensure the safety of both staff and pet owners, many animal hospitals in Alexandria have begun using curbside pickup to see their patients.
Veterinary staff meet pet owners at their cars in front of the hospitals and retrieve the animals to bring them inside for their exams.
“When the owners arrive they just give us a description of their vehicle with a contact number for them to be reached,” said Belle Haven Animal Hospital receptionist Carlena Ford. “The doctors are performing exams by phone, we are just not allowing any of the clients to come into the building.”
While the new implementation of curbside pickup was an adjustment at first for staff at VCA Old Town Animal Hospital, the hospital has been receiving positive feedback from their clients due to the precautions they are taking, according to Medical Director Dr. Laura MacLean.
“We certainly have had to adjust to communicating a lot more over the phone rather than face to face. In some cases, our doctors will go outside and discuss findings and plans with the owners in person, while maintaining proper social distance,” said Dr. MacLean. “Being able to speak in person for some patients is very helpful, if the case is more complicated or difficult.”
Pet Face Time
All other communication between staff and clients at VCA is completed over the phone or through text. To help with client communication, staff at Paws, Purrs and Exotics Animal Hospital have been using facetime to speak with customers while working with patients.
“People are concerned about their animals and still want to be part of the process, and I don’t blame them,” said Dr. Elton Vyfhuis. “So we still offer facetime, video chat or whatever other outlet is possible to keep the line of communication.”
Staff at the animal hospitals have also been taking great precaution while retrieving the patients, which can include using the hospitals own leashes and equipment.
“We are having our owners prepare the dogs and get them out of the car to hand them off so we are not reaching in and out of the vehicles,” said Ford.
Many animal hospitals have also begun meeting clients outside when picking up food or medications. VCA even offers a home delivery service for food and medications, according to Dr. MacLean.
Reusable Gloves and Gowns
All personnel at the animal hospitals have also been wearing Personal Protective Equipment while working with patients. In addition, the hospitals have been urging their staff to continue to wash their hands as much as possible.
“In order to preserve our PPE supply, we have reusable gowns and use rubber household gloves that can be easily washed and sanitized between patients and reused throughout the day,” said Dr. MacLean. “One of our doctors, Dr. Colligan, has been making washable, reusable face masks for the staff.”
VCA has also been working to create distance within their staff by dividing staff and doctors into two work teams that work separate days.
“We have spread out our work spaces throughout the hospital to maintain distance as much as possible throughout the work day,” said Dr. MacLean.
While the new changes in protocol have had an affect on both workers and clients at the animal hospitals, clients have been, for the most part, working with the hospitals to adapt to the new measures that are in place.
“As long as people are compliant, which 95% of people are, it works great,” said Dr. Vyfhuis. “We have been trying to be open and honest with our clients about what is going on and most people have been cognizant and accepting of that.”