Orchard House and the “New Normal”

There is a Chinese expression that translates as “Better to be a dog in times of tranquility than a human in times of chaos.”  We have seen a degree of chaos recently, as most of you will have noticed. But we hope that, to the dogs, cats, rabbits and occasional other patients, Orchard House has maintained a sense of tranquility. We do feel a bit like the swan serenely gliding over Bolam Lake whilst frantically paddling under the surface.
How Things Change
In the long distant past, at the start of the lockdown, the way we worked at the vets changed massively. Our professional bodies (the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association) decreed that only emergency, acute and urgent cases could be seen. We had to cease face-to-face contact with clients. We centralised all care at Hexham, supplied scrubs to the NHS, offered equipment and oxygen supplies, whilst retaining sufficient supplies to care for your pets. We were seeing A&E cases and postponing any less urgent care. Where possible we started video and telephone consultations, though the limitations of both became starkly apparent. Our repeat medications/prescriptions email address is helping to reduce telephone calls for repeat medications (medication@orchardhousevets.com or Visit our contact page). During the first days of lockdown our telephone call volume increased 20-fold. Even now we are taking around 5 times the number of calls as BC (before Covid as no one is calling it!).
Almost Normal
Over the lockdown the restrictions have become less strict. We are now permitted to perform our work as normal provided we maintain social distancing and use PPE where appropriate. To maintain staff “bubbles” we are continuing to avoid clients entering our surgeries. Instead we use telephone calls to take history or a conversation in the car park before the pet is admitted using an “airlock” system or is walked or carried into the surgery. We have extended the length of appointments to allow for the extra time the new protocols require. We are minimising any movement of staff between our branches so if staff at one branch have to self isolate because of a Covid case within the practice then we can still maintain our care for your pets. We do not, at present, have the capacity for healthy pet checks but can now see pets for the less major issues such as overgrown claws or impacted anal sacs.
Vaccinations
If one thing that Covid-19 has taught us then it is the value and importance of vaccination against fatal diseases. Compare Covid with Canine Parvovirus which has a mortality rate of around 50% even with the best treatment. The parallels with Covid-19 are chilling. I’m old enough to remember when Parvovirus emerged in the 1970s and spread worldwide in 2 years, killing millions of dogs. The vaccine is very effective but boosters should be given to maintain immunity. Despite the vaccine, Parvo remains a fairly common disease because not enough people vaccinate their dogs and herd immunity in some areas is low. A recent outbreak has been reported in north Northumberland and there are frequent cases in urban areas.
We have been vaccinating the young and vulnerable from the beginning of lockdown but we are now also giving booster vaccinations and re-start courses for all pets. If you are unsure of your pet’s vaccination status then please call the surgery. Dogs, cats and rabbits should all have annual vaccinations to maintain immunity to serious diseases with high mortality rates. And vaccinating your pet is also essential to maintain local “herd immunity”. Vaccination in dogs is particularly important as our Leptospirosis vaccination prevents transmission to in-contact people.
…and a Personal Thank You 
We do appreciate your patience during a time when Covid-19 is altering how we provide our service. We are still “Caring for your pets as if they were our pets”. We hope that as Covid infection rates drop further we will be able to start proper face-to-face consultations once again. I’m off to Barnard Castle to check my eyesight…
Stay safe.
Tim Pearson, BVMS, MVM, MRCVS
Clinical Director and Veterinary Surgeon
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