The owner of Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Services says it will close the practice by November, after three weeks of reduced hours.
Three weeks ago, Brighton Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Services, previously the only 24/7 animal hospital in the greater Rochester area, reduced hours for the second time in less than two years.
Its parent company, Texas-based Thrive Pet Healthcare, cited staffing shortages but vowed to fill the open positions.
However, late Thursday night, Thrive announced that the practice would be closing permanently.
“Due to a shortage of emergency physicians, we have made the very difficult decision to close the Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Services (VSES) Hospital in Rochester. The last day of surgery will be no later than November 27,” Thrive wrote in a statement.y“.
On its website, Thrive lists 21 VSES vets, including 11 emergency vets, but the statement paints a bleak picture: “We explored multiple options to remain in service, including recruitment and placement while rotating doctors from other clinics in the area. The pool of candidates for full-time or relief candidates with experience in emergency and surgical care is very limited.This is a national challenge that our team is acutely facing in the Rochester area.
“We know that closing this hospital is a huge loss to the community and our team members, and the decision to close was one of the most difficult decisions we have made as a company.”
A group of about 130 VSES workers who unionized in January 2022 strongly dispute these assertions, claiming that A statement of hers was posted publicly on Facebook that the company is “absolutely lying” about “exploring multiple options” and that the closure is the result of “corporate greed”.
In May 2021, VSES was sold to Thrive, which has more than 400 veterinary clinics nationwide (including 18 in the Rochester area) and a private equity firm as a major shareholder.
As they moved to unionize, VSES workers, including technicians, veterinary assistants and front desk staff, expressed frustration with working conditions after Thrive took over.
Thrive said it will continue to operate VSES “as long as we can ensure a reliable schedule of care for our patients.”
From August 25th, business hours will be from 8 am to 6 pm daily.
“We recommend that pet owners contact the VSES team first to ensure they have capacity before bringing a pet to the hospital. The team will do everything they can to help,” Thrive wrote.
Pet owners who wish to retrieve copies of their pets’ medical records must send an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
VSES has its roots in 1988, and began its 24/7 service in 2000. Hours were reduced for the first time in January 2022.
There are 24/7 veterinary hospitals elsewhere in Central and Western New York.
Syracuse, which is smaller than Rochester, has one: the Veterinary Medical Center in Central New York at 5841 Bridge Street, East Syracuse. Her phone number is (315) 446-7933, and her website is vmccny.com.
Although slightly larger than the city of Rochester, the Buffalo area is home to many, including Orchard Park Veterinary Medical Center, 3930 North Buffalo Street, Orchard Park. Its phone number is (716) 662-6660, and its website is opvmc.com. Green Acres Veterinary Center is located at 2060 Niagara Falls Blvd., Tonawanda. Its phone number is (716) 213-0283 and its website is greenacresveterinarycenter.com.
“If Buffalo can figure it out, Rochester should be able to, too,” said Tammy Baker, a volunteer and spokeswoman for the nonprofit animal rescue group GRASP.
“For a city of our size, this is an issue of quality of life,” she said. “I’m not sure how the community will handle it, but I hope there is a way forward because there is a need in the community. My cat is 17½, and I’m wondering if there are resources available at the time she needs it.”
Baker is also concerned about the pressure that closing VSES will put on other veterinary practices.
“It’s like a snowball rolling down a hill,” she said. “That would tax every other practice.”
She indicated that even if some of those practices wished to extend their working hours, this would not necessarily solve the problem, because emergency veterinary medicine is a specialty.
“But hopefully this is a solvable situation.”