PORTLAND, Ore. — It's a common complain for pet owners across the Portland metro area these days: long wait times in animal emergency rooms.
Ron Morgan, the CEO of DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital said wait times are at an historic level because there's a staffing shortage. Morgan said before the pandemic, wait times were about 45-minutes, but now pet owners and their pets could wait as long as a week for non-life threatening injuries.
"There's just been so many changes in veterinary medicine that has led to people not being able to see their regular vet or they have adopted pets and can't see their regular doctor," Morgan said.
Morgan said DoveLewis would love to reduce wait times, but they need more staff for that to happen. He said there was a veterinarian shortage before the pandemic, now the hospital is in survival mode.
"We're going to triage every pet that comes in and put them in a case severity level," Morgan said. "Those that need immediate care will get immediate care. Those that are actually stable or those that can wait for several days, we are going to put them on a waiting list."
Morgan said recruitment is their top priority, but it's also harder to convince people to move cross-county during a pandemic.
"At one point, a month or so ago, we had 50 plus job openings at DoveLewis and it was really hard to fill those openings all the way from client service representatives to technicians and doctors," Morgan said.
Morgan encourages owners to update DoveLewis on their pet's condition and he asks for empathy and patience for the current situation.
Pet owner Steve Roberts understands everything veterinarians are dealing with and thinks they're doing the best they can.
"I took my cat in last Saturday and he had a life threatening condition, they were able to get in and see him very quickly, which was fantastic," Roberts said.
Morgan said keeping up with the demand will continue to be a challenge for DoveLewis. The demand for veterinary care is higher than the amount of vets coming out of school.
"We grew 20% in our patient volume last year. Some months we are 30% and some months are 40% higher in patient volume than last year," Morgan said.