In the second segment of our third webinar, Dr. Pamela Schwartz shared experiences from the epicenter of the US COVID-19 crisis: New York City. Dr. Schwartz is the Chair of Department of Surgery, Soft Tissue & Orthopedics at the Animal Medical Center, the largest animal hospital in NY. Leading the surgery department at the largest animal hospital in New York is a challenge in normal days, let alone during a global pandemic. Dr. Schwartz shared how her hospital is handling the logistical, medical, and emotional challenges posed by the current situation.
Pamela Schwartz, DVM, DACVS, CCRP
Intro: discussion of current situation and new procedures
- Many new procedures/policies, and they’re changing day by day. Following all CDC/WHO guidelines, and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association more specifically.
- Curbside check-in, and only two clients in the lobby at a time.
- All who can work remotely are doing so, and limits the number of staff working in the building.
- Telemedicine and phone consults are being used.
- Hotlines for clients and referring veterinarians to call.
- Majority of the case-load is urgent/pain relief, and continuing treatment of cases that already began it on an as-needed basis.
Question: How do you effectively communicate the new changes to decrease the stress level of your staff and clients?
- Nonstop communication to determine what worked/what didn’t and what changes are necessary tomorrow/in the future. The communication doesn’t only have utilitarian value, but helps reassure all parties involved.
Question: Is your hospital, being located in NYC, donating PPE and ventilators?
- The recommendation from the CDC has changed, and so the hospital is distributing masks, but recommending to reuse them, as well as looking into making cloth masks. Obtaining cloth gowns, as well as sourcing from companies that haven’t historically been used.
- Some of their ventilators are actually human ventilators, and they’ve been donated to human hospitals in the area. However, the pet hospital continues to operate and see patients.
Questions to both Drs. London & Schwartz
Question: How do you deal with the difficult decision to tell clients that their pet currently can’t come in?
- Now that people are understanding the gravity of the situation, there is a lot of compassion from clients. Clients are just as stressed and concerned as vets, but it tends to manifest as kindness.
- Clients tend to be extraordinarily grateful when they are able to come in, and of course veterinarians make the greatest effort possible to still treat patients.
- Clients tend to understand, but it remains enormously tough to break the news to them.
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