After weathering the pandemic and keeping the ER open 24/7 for patients, the CEO of DoveLewis said it was an expected change due to a staff shortage.
PORTLAND, Ore. — 24/7 emergency pet care options have become much slimmer in Portland.
DoveLewis, one of the nation’s largest emergency veterinary hospitals, located in northwest Portland, has reduced its ER appointment hours. After weathering the pandemic — and keeping the emergency room open 24 hours a day, seven days a week — Ron Morgan, the company’s president and chief executive, said he expected this day to come.
“It’s heartbreaking for us to have to make this decision, for the long-term health of the organization, for your employees to catch their breath, and for us to regroup on our ability to staff and bring the hospital where he needs to be,” Morgan said.
Ideally, DoveLewis should have 280 employees, Morgan said, with the vast majority working at the hospital. At present, they only have about 185. DoveLewis’ low staffing has forced the hospital to consolidate services and limit appointment times for emergencies.
“We lost a number of doctors for months throughout the pandemic,” he said, “when you have 100 staff down, we just couldn’t get through the day.”
At least temporarily, Emergency opening hours are now 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Veterinary teams will continue to monitor and treat patients in intensive care 24/7 and specialist services will keep their usual hours.
Meanwhile, DoveLewis management is focused on filling in the blanks.
“Fortunately, we’ve graded our recruiting efforts and we’re seeing progress there, but the veterinary industry in general has a real staffing problem,” Morgan said. “It’s not just DoveLewis. There aren’t enough vets coming out of vet schools. There aren’t enough techs coming out of tech schools.”
As they continue their recruiting efforts, with plans to do more on-site training at the hospital, Morgan said the goal is to bring the emergency room back to 24 hours a day in about six months.
“We’re looking at this as maybe a way to change the delivery model for emergency veterinary care,” he said.