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Coronavirus update: How one AAHA-accredited hospital is helping fearful clients keep appointments

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It’s official. COVID-19 is a pandemic.

That’s according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which adds that it has never before seen a pandemic caused by a coronavirus. More significantly, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasizes that “we have [also] never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled.”

Which makes doing what you can to prevent the spread of the coronavirus even more critical.

Given that a COVID-19 vaccine is at least 18 months away, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus and to follow strict handwashing and other hygiene protocols. The American Veterinary Medical Association’s recommendations are a good place to start.

Ensuring that your hospital’s schedule isn’t disrupted by clients worried about catching the coronavirus by going out in public is a little trickier. Here’s what one AAHA-accredited hospital did to put a plan in place to help clients concerned about coronavirus exposure keep their pets’ appointments.

Mesa Veterinary Hospital in Golden, Colorado, developed a strategic plan to operate efficiently in the face of an outbreak. Their primary goal is to ensure that their patients have access to the medical care they need while also doing their best to protect their staff, their clients, and the community as a whole.

Starting March 6, Mesa began offering carside check-in appointments for their clients, particularly those who are immunocompromised or experiencing respiratory symptoms.

NEWStat spoke to Mesa hospital manager Kelsey Hamilton about the service.

“Our biggest goal was to be ahead of [COVID-19],” Hamilton said. “As of right now, we’re doing business as usual, but for those people who are very nervous or immunocompromised, we wanted to make sure we could still care for [their pets] and get them what they needed.”

Hence, carside check-ins.

“When a client calls to schedule an appointment, they let the front desk know they want a carside appointment.” When the client pulls into the parking lot, they call the front desk to let them know they’ve arrived.

A staff member then comes out, takes the pet’s history, and brings the patient inside. “We do the exam as usual, then the veterinarian calls the client on their cellphone, talks about the findings, and goes over recommendations. The owner pays over the phone, then we bring their kiddo back outside for them,” Hamilton explains. “It’s very efficient.”

Although requests for the carside service have been minimal so far, Hamilton sees the service blending seamlessly into the hospital’s regular routine should the COVID-19 situation worsen: “If it were to blow up, I think the only thing that would change is that our lobby would be less busy.”

Hamilton notes that it’s the veterinary assistants, not the veterinarians, who going outside to get the pet, and that the hospital is not practicing curbside pet care. “Because of liability and insurance issues, the veterinarians can’t see anyone outside.” Hamilton says that, essentially, the hospital staff are just walking dogs. “And we’re doing that anyway.”

Hamilton says the service is pretty similar to what most hospitals would call a drop-off appointment (when a client drops the pet off in the morning and then leaves). “[But] instead of their pet having to wait all day in a kennel, the client’s getting the same care and they’re able to go home afterward without having to come inside.”

Hamilton says she doesn’t think people are specifically worried about catching COVID-19 in a veterinary hospital. “I think people in general are just worried about being around crowds right now.”

Photo credit: © iStock/D-Keine