The Australian Veterinary Association is calling on state and territory governments to recognise that all veterinary services are being highly impacted by Omicron and implement the National Cabinet guidelines, so veterinary teams have the flexibility to manage close contacts to ensure veterinary services can continue to be delivered.
“Veterinarians are highly trained in infection control, they understand emergency disease responses and are able to manage infection risk,” AVA head of Veterinary and Public Affairs Dr Cristy Secombe said.
“They are well positioned to be able to manage the risk associated with asymptomatic close contacts of COVID-19.”
The AVA surveyed the veterinary profession to understand the impact COVID-19 is having on the care of animals across Australia. Twenty three per cent of respondents indicated that the welfare of animals had been significantly negatively affected by COVID-19 restrictions over the past four weeks, with a further 47 per cent stating that it had been somewhat affected.
In the states most affected by the Omicron variant, 87 per cent of veterinary practices have experienced staff shortages due to COVID-19 with 25 per cent having had to close for periods as a result and a further 31 per cent having to reduce hours. This is making it increasingly difficult for animal owners to get veterinary appointments for their pets and placing veterinary staff under incredible stress.
An average of 14 per cent of veterinary teams are quarantining as a result of being infected with COVID. However, an average of 26 per cent are quarantining as close contacts and could return to work to care for pets under the current national cabinet guidelines.
“To allow veterinarians to provide veterinary care for all animals including pets we implore the state governments to urgently modify public health orders and reflect the guidance provided by national cabinet in recognition that all veterinary services are highly impacted,” Dr Secombe said.
“COVID 19 has worsened the pre-existing skills shortage within the veterinary profession and it’s now getting to the point that some small animal emergencies cannot be treated.”