We ask that all clients continue to wear masks when interacting with our staff in the interest of keeping everyone safe.
Veterinary Referral & Critical Care (VRCC) understands and respects everyone’s concerns regarding the current COVID-19 outbreak. The following policies and procedures have been designed to maximally protect the health, safety, and welfare of ALL staff, patients and clients with FULL DUE DILIGENCE. It is our mission to continue care of our patients as safely and efficiently as possible. Sources of information utilized for the development of these policies include the CDC, WHO, Veterans Health Administration (which is the caring for the largest at risk population in the United States), and other veterinary referral facilities (University of Missouri, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine). This policy has been designed to protect everyone equally and consistently. Due to the recommendations changing daily, we will strive to update our own protocols as needed, and to keep all employees regularly updated.
VRCC’s COVID-19 policy utilizes 4 primary objectives:
- 1. Reasonable screening of employees and clients for possible COVID-19 infection.
- 2. Sanitation of the physical plant, hygiene of personnel and appropriate utilization of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- 3. Social distancing at work and home to the level that it is possible without preventing the appropriate care of our patients.
- 4. Appropriate (safe and efficient) utilization of VRCC personnel.
Before entering the hospital ALL VRCC employees and clients must answer “NO” to the following 3 questions:
- 1. Do you have a fever, cough, or other flu-like symptoms?
- 2. Have you been in close contact with someone experiencing fever, cough, or other flu-like symptoms?
- 3. Have you been in close contact with someone, including health care workers, confirmed to have the coronavirus disease?
If employee answers yes to any of the above 3 questions, then they will be required to stay at home until CDC Guidelines state that they are safe to rejoin our workforce. Anyone cleared to return to work that exhibits a residual cough will be required to wear a mask until the cough has subsided.
All VRCC Clients will be contacted ahead of scheduled appointments and asked if anyone in the family has had fever, cough, or high risk travel recently. If the answer is yes and the visit is non-urgent, the appointment will be rescheduled.
If a client presents with an Emergency Patient and answers “YES” to any of the above 3 questions, then they can not enter the hospital through the normal entrance. They will; however, after completion of required routine admissions information (on line or via forms provided in vestibule), be admitted through the VRCC Isolation Unit entrance at the side of the hospital. Clients entering the isolation unit will be greeted by VRCC wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). History, physical examination, and/triage will be obtained/performed in the isolation examination area. The client should be asked to return to their car to wait, and the attending veterinarian will call them for estimates and treatment plans. Estimates by phone MUST be witnessed and signed off on by 2 people. Payments/deposits should be obtained via phone communication with reception desk. Patients may need to be bathed before entering main hospital if they do not have zoonotic transmissible disease.
Sanitation of the physical plant, hygiene of personnel and appropriate utilization of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
VRCC has always exceeded guidelines for sanitation and hygiene of animal care facilities. VRCC will also follow the newly updated Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Patients with Suspected or Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Healthcare Settings (Updated March 10, 2020). https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/infection-control/control-recommendations.html
VRCC has always has, and will continue to follow CDC guidelines for hand washing as this may be the most effective tool for protecting our staff and clients. VRCC staff will wash their hands according to CDC guidelines (https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html) :
- 1. After EVERY patient contact
- 2. After EVERY client contact
- 3. Before, during, and after preparing food
- 4. Before eating food
- 5. Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
- 6. Before and after treating a cut or wound
- 7. After using the toilet
- 8. After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet.
- 9. After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- 10. After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- 11. After handling pet food or pet treats
- 12. After touching garbage
- 13. After touching phones (including cell phones)
- 14. After touching key boards
Social distancing is a public health practice that aims to prevent sick people from coming in close contact with healthy people in order to reduce opportunities for disease transmission. It can include large-scale measures like canceling group events or closing public spaces, as well as individual decisions such as avoiding crowds.
With COVID-19, the goal of social distancing right now is to slow down the outbreak in order to reduce the chance of infection among high-risk populations and to reduce the burden on health care systems and workers. Experts describe this as "flattening the curve," which generally refers to the potential success of social distancing measures to prevent surges in illness that could overwhelm health care systems.
The CDC defines social distancing as it applies to COVID-19 as "remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible." This also means, no handshakes, fist pumps, or elbow bumps. Obviously, appropriate and safe care of our veterinary patients often requires staff to be much closer than 6 feet. But, making a conscious effort to increase spatial distance between coworkers whenever possible will reduce risk of infection within the workplace.
Employees are strongly encouraged to follow local, state, and federal guidelines regarding this topic. Maximal group sizes are ever changing. Avoid travel requiring public transportation. Avoid social functions and organizational meetings.
I want to assure you that the COVID-19 outbreak is a matter that is being taken very seriously. Calmly developing an effective policy based on proven and factual information that maximizes client/employee safety without compromising patient care certainly has its challenges. The COVID-19 outbreak has created unique and serious circumstances that are rapidly changing. Subsequently, these operating procedures will very likely change to meet the demands of a highly fluid situation.
More detailed information is being compiled by our doctors and staff regarding specific topics like triage, admittance procedures, cleaning protocols, conserving PPE, etc. This information will follow very shortly.
Please do not hesitate to ask questions. Try to obtain information from reliable sources. Remain calm. The VRCC staff is highly resilient and incredibly dedicated to our patients. I have no doubt that we will readily persevere if everyone contributes to the best of their capabilities.
Ed Fallin, DVM, MS
Diplomate ACVIM, Small Animal Internal Medicine
Veterinarian in Charge, VRCC