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Veterinarian Shortfall Prompts VCA Alexandria Animal Hospital to Close Overnight Emergency Services

After more than three decades, overnight emergency services at the VCA Alexandria Animal Hospital will come to an end on Feb. 24.

The 78-year-old animal hospital at 2660 Duke Street announced on Jan. 30 that it cannot find veterinarians capable or willing to work the exhausting and emotionally draining overnight emergency service hours. The hospital will continue its general practice and urgent care services during daytime hours.

“It’s very sad. It’s very hard for all of us. Imagine how the employees feel,” VCA Alexandria Animal Hospital Manager Karen Bates told ALXnow. “We lost eight veterinarians last year because they can not handle the stress or the requirements of the exhausting overnight hours. If someone is interested in an emergency position, they want to work during the day. At night you’re alone, you don’t have colleagues to bounce ideas off of — especially if you’re a new graduate.”

Bates, who has worked at the hospital for 30 years, said that the Alexandria hospital had to ask permission from VCA to discontinue its overnight services. VCA Hospitals owns hundreds of animal hospitals in the U.S. and Canada and bought the Alexandria location more than a decade ago. All VCA hospitals are run independently by individual management teams.

“This has nothing to do with the purchase of us by a corporation,” Bates said, adding that staffing overnight has been an issue for more than five years. “We had to ask VCA for permission to do this. We have the business, we have the staff, we just don’t have the doctors. We’ve been working with relief veterinarians. They’re not technically employees, but they have been able to keep us afloat this long.”

VCA Alexandria Animal Hospital will continue operating during general practice hours, which are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. The hospital is closed on Sundays, but staff hope to expand weekend hours and be open seven days a week.

The nearest overnight emergency care facilities include:

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