The chronic vet shortage and associated strain on staff mental health across the ACT are set for reprieve with the Animal Referral Hospital's move to a larger and better resourced facility gaining traction.
In September, the hospital will move from Fyshwick to Pialligo where the new facility is currently being built.
When finished, the large premises on the corner of Fairbairn and Pialligo avenues will have three theatres, a 24-hour emergency department, a diagnostic MRI and other medical equipment.
Dr Jacob Michelsen, surgical specialist at the hospital, said he hoped the larger space would help alleviate pressures at the hospital and "everywhere else".
"With the bigger location, it means we'll be easy to find, we'll be able to accept more patients and hopefully attract more beds to a better facility," he said.
Dr Michelsen, who has been at the hospital since 2014 and a vet for 30 years, said the current site in Fyshwick was "enormously crowded".
"We've got far too many patients for the size of the clinic, so we're struggling with simply fitting all the people in all the animals in that we have," he said.
"The new site will let us employ more specialists. It means we'll probably have an ophthalmologist or an oncologist - all these other specialists we don't have now."
In April, the hospital had to issue a notice about it closing for public consultation for non-critical appointments during one weekend due to being "critically short-staffed and unable to provide a comprehensive service".
Dr Michelsen said the long-term plan was to employ about another five specialists and 10-15 other staff members to the current team of more than 100, including 30 vets.
"The plan has been 5-6 years in the making. It's taken a very long time to get through planning approvals," he said.
"This is a referral hospital and it does emergency work at night and on the weekends, so having additional resources would help."
The vet shortage across the country had been chronic with 2019 research by the Department of Employment in May 2019 finding that employers continued to experience difficulty filling advertised veterinarian roles with shortages apparent for the third consecutive year.
Only 29 per cent of vacancies were filled with 0.7 suitable applicants per vacancy. Nearly a quarter of employers surveyed attracted no applicants.
"This is despite completions in veterinary courses being at record highs and employment outcomes for recent graduates remaining strong," the department stated.
In April last year, RSPCA ACT reported the number of adoptions doubled the weekly average in a two-week period.
ACT government data shows that while dog registrations in 2020 dropped from 512 in January to 199 in April, the trend had been upwards since.
It peaked at 584 in January this year with the average since January 2020 being 456 per month.
In April, Canberra Veterinary Emergency Services closed their services midweek for two weeks to address the shortage.
Other proposed solutions by to help address the shortage across the nation are a Medicare-like scheme, mandatory pet insurance and allowing more skilled migration once border restrictions ease.
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