Behind the Scenes of COVID at Rocky Gorge
By Dr. Marisa Pasekoff, Managing Veterinarian & Partner
We are now in the 6th month of our world being turned upside down and let’s face it, we are all COVID fatigued. Hopefully we all at least have a stock of toilet paper by now, but there is no doubt our patience is thin and our frustrations are high. We unfortunately have witnessed a few of our clients yelling at Rocky Gorge team members for unsubstantial reasons; however, our team is not faultless either. We thought it may be helpful to take you through the “behind the scenes” here at Rocky Gorge to give more perspective on how we are handling coronavirus, and the steps we are taking for our clients.
Historically, animal hospitals in general have their “busy season” during the summer months. Tack on not being able to do wellness visits and elective procedures for almost 2 months and not seeing appointments at full capacity, the perfect storm has been created. Our primary goal is to keep our team safe while staying open to be available for your pets. We’re requiring our team to take their temperature at the beginning of their shifts and to wear masks while on the property. We have increased the frequency of our cleaning protocols, have remained “curbside” for the foreseeable future, lengthened our appointment times to allow extra time for the cleaning and have requested our team members to not enter your cars to retrieve your pets. The only exceptions to clients coming in are for restroom needs (clients will have their temperature taken first and only one client in the building at a time) and when you need to make the unfortunate decision to euthanize your pet (again, a temperature of the client is taken and only one person may come into the building). We understand the stress that this gives you (and occasionally your pet). There is nothing ideal about this situation. We truly miss seeing you and catching up on how you are doing. Our long-term personal relationships with our clients are part of what makes Rocky Gorge so special.
So, what is going on here at Rocky Gorge and what are we doing to improve the quality of your experience?
- New practice management software – Just prior to COVID, we upgraded our practice management software system (in other words, our entire system with all of your and your pets’ information and medical records). We thankfully had time to train the team but there are a few unresolved issues that affect our efficiency that are taking a bit longer to resolve. Our original plan was to be in the cloud by now, but like everything else, that has been delayed.
- Pharmacy services – Once the discussion of lock down started, our pharmacy was inundated with requests. We can still ship most pharmacy requests and we did start a home delivery option including pet food (with restrictions on mile radius). We’ve had to balance making sure we have medication available for everyone’s pets with the changes in shipments and availabilities from our distributors. This may be why you have been told you may only receive a one-month supply at a time. You can learn more about pharmacy offerings here.
- New phone system is on the way – Ahh, our beloved phone system. Despite your love of being on hold indefinitely or getting lost in the system (wink wink), we were working towards a new system prior to the lock down. In an effort to facilitate checking in and contacting our pharmacy, we added burner phones for the interim. We have since resumed talks with vendors for a new system and hope to roll that out very soon. It will likely be a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) that syncs with our new software system. Like any new system, there is a learning curve and our team will not be experts in all of its features immediately. Please try to be patient (as you recall, we know that this is challenging for most of us right now).
We’re aware that you have been having a hard time getting an appointment to be seen. We have reached out to other animal hospitals across the country and it’s happening everywhere. Here are a few measures we are putting into place and their effect to date.
- New doctors – Since March, two new doctors have been added to the team and another doctor is due to start in September.
- Introducing telehealth – We have instituted telehealth These have worked well but unfortunately there are limitations. We legally cannot “see” you unless your pet has had a physical exam by one of our doctors in the past 12 months. Additionally, there are some medical conditions that are best seen in person.
- Wellness appointment visits – We’re periodically having Sunday wellness appointment days. These are often not listed on our doctor schedule because they are added as we are able to. We have a limited number of appointments available each day for “same day sick” needs. These open up early in the morning but unfortunately, they get filled up quickly. Our client relations team does keep a wait list so, if there is a cancellation, they can try to still get you in.
- Drop off appointments – For the past few weeks, we have trialed drop off appointments. We have started with wellness only to work out any kinks but hope to have an increased number of both wellness and minor sick appointments available beginning in September.
We hope this has given you some insight to what our team is going through, and the measures we are putting in place to benefit our clients. Please know, our client relations team is answering those calls as fast as they can get to them. Our technicians are out there getting your pets from your car even in the extreme heat and storms that we have had recently. Our ER team is handling an increase in appointments and hospitalizations. We want you to know that the Pharmacy team is working tirelessly to make sure we are able to care for all of our patient’s medication and diet requests. Given the current situation, requests and contact are taking longer than usual due to increased demand, approximately 72 business hours. This applies for Pharmacy voicemails, Vitus Vet requests and emails. The entire Rocky Gorge family is working so hard and we are so grateful to have their support, as well as the support of our clients.
It’s easy sometimes, though, to forget that everyone, both clients and Rocky Gorge team members, are all dealing with our own stresses related to COVID. Situations like not seeing family and friends for extended periods of time, financial burdens due to unexpected unemployment, events that have been cancelled or worse, losing a loved one to this horrible disease are taking its toll on us and frankly, causing us to be cranky. And we are taking it out on others when we need to be kind and respectful to each other. The majority of our clients are wonderful. We have received flowers, homemade masks and, most importantly, kind words. Unfortunately, all it takes is that one rude person to set off a ricochet of negative attitude. As we mentioned in the beginning of the blog, the team, including me, is just as guilty at losing our cool sometimes. It’s unacceptable for anyone to behave that way and we are no exception. So please, take a deep breath, count to 10 and remember that the person you’re interacting with is battling their own struggles as well. If you do find yourself behaving poorly, please take the time to apologize. Deciding to be kind can make more of a difference than you will ever know.