Veterinarians and COVID-19 in Canada

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Canada has 200 AAHA-accredited hospitals. Canada also has Covid-19: 27,540 confirmed cases as of April 15, and just under 1,000 deaths.

Canadian hospitals are struggling with the same issues as hospitals in the states: keeping the doors open, meeting payroll, and keeping staff and clients safe while doing their best to provide the best continuity of care possible under near-impossible circumstances.

So NEWStat reached out to John Tait, DVM, MBA, MS(Fin), CFP, owner of John Tait Veterinary Consulting in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, and a past president of AAHA (2009–2010), to find out how our colleagues north of the border are faring.

NEWStat: How is the coronavirus pandemic affecting veterinary hospitals in Canada? How are they coping?

John Tait: Veterinary services here, [as] in the US, are designated essential, with most provinces advising veterinarians to focus on emergent and urgent care patients only. We have had great coaching on adjusting operational models, and there are numerous government-support programs in place to assist business owners and employees. Pet owners continue to place a priority on their discretionary expenditures, [of which] pets are one. We have regular forums for networking, including on platforms such as those available for Veterinary Management Group members. One of the most fluid stressors is [finding] the balance between respecting and prioritizing a safe environment for staff and clients, and taking care of patients. Models like curbside admissions, more alternative and telemedicine models, and structured and rotating teams in the hospital are common.

NEWStat: What financial and professional resources  are available to Canadian veterinary professionals to help them cope with the crisis?

JT: Provinces here have their own associations, including AAHA, that have provided everything from personal support on resilience and wellness to operating models, employment standards, and assistance on how to apply for government-support programs. Individual support, such as with those in my role, help with business and personal financial strategies such as determining breakeven points to maintain business solvency, and eventual recovery strategies.

NEWStat: Do you think Canadian hospitals face different challenges than American hospitals?

JT: I think the challenges are largely the same. This is a healthcare crisis, and the human element and anxiety it has created among staff, clients, providers, and other businesses and individuals supporting our profession are the same. Government support has been similar in both countries, and overlapping missions and assistance that organizations like AAHA provide are beneficial to all companion-animal veterinarians.

NEWStat: What sort of financial-assistance programs has Canada implemented for small businesses temporarily shuttered by COVID-19?

JT: We have several here, which include:

  • Unemployment insurance for those laid-off or not wanting to come in [to work] because of COVID-19 limitations
  • A workshare program that subsidizes 75% of payroll as long as revenue had dropped by 30% year over year. This will extend as long as needed
  • An “emergency relief benefit” that pays a set amount every month to anyone not qualifying [for] the above [programs, such as] self-employed individuals

NEWStat: As a veterinary finance expert, what’s your advice to Canadian practices trying to weather the coronavirus-induced financial crunch?

JT: I think my advice for practices is to monitor their client flow, revenue, and expenses. Business solvency, is the most important thing [financially], and daily or weekly calculations like breakeven points are very important.

Also, many owners are understandably concerned with their equity positions or practice value, and as a business valuator, I can assure practice owners that their values will return. I would also look ahead to having a recovery plan ready so practices can respond quickly once we start to see a return to “normal.”

Find more COVID-19 resources on the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association website.

Photo credit: © iStock/blackdovfx

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