SEVEN local veterinary clinics have come together to provide a daily after hours service to alleviate the mounting pressure on regional vets and nurses.
With a suicide rate four times higher than the national average and an increased demand for services during the pandemic, regional veterinarians are overstretched.
In an attempt to protect vet's mental health, the Victorian Veterinary Board amended the legislation for private vet practices in 2018, permitting them to opt out of after hours clinics.
However as some clinics began opting out, the pressure has been mounting on the ones that stayed open.
"Demand has gone up something like 20 percent for veterinary services and there is a real shortage of vets in rural Victoria," Bendigo Animal Hospital veterinarian Chris Allison said.
We work in an industry where there is inevitable stress. If we make a mistake there is a lot of consequences to follow and there is a lot of stress on our shoulders.Bendigo Animal Hospital veterinarian Chris Allison
Currently, each veterinary practice is individually in charge of their own after hours clinics, resulting in an increasingly heavy and unpredictable workload.
"It got to a point where you were getting called out three of four times a night practically every night," Dr Allison said.
However, next week only one of seven Veterinary clinics will be open for an after hours on call service.
The Central Veterinary Emergency clinic will continue to operate their nightly weekend service from 8pm Friday to 6am Monday, while Bendigo's weekly clinics will unite to run one nightly after hours service per week each.
The participating clinics include MyVet in Strathfieldsaye, Greencross Vets in White Hills, McIvor Road Vet in Bendigo, Spring Gully Animal Hospital, Fur Life Vet in Eaglehawk, Bendigo Animal Hospital and Kangaroo Flat Vet clinic.
"Bendigo is big enough to warrant a nightly clinic, so the idea is if we can concentrate that to one clinic per night we can make everyone's lives a lot better," Dr Allison said.
"People are going to get a better service overall because of the fact that we're distributing the work more evenly."
Dr Allison said at the moment vets are doing multiple nights on call per week but come Monday, the combined after hours service will mean each vet will work one week night every six weeks.
"Yes it might be busier for a night," he said.
"It also means we can roster appropriately and give people time off to recover and they'll do a better job when they come back to work."
Furlife Veterinary clinic's Kellie Anset has been practicing for 21 years and said the change would provide some much needed relief to Bendigo's vets.
"The change might also help attract other veterinarians to the area which would further help alleviate pressure," she said.
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"The Australian Veterinary Association provides mental health support for vets," she said.
"Love Your Pet, Love Your Vet are also all about creating awareness for mental health for vets and providing support and services."
Bendigo's vets are optimistic about the program, although they're anticipating some teething issues.
"There's going to be a lot of worried clients and people who like those personal relationships with vets," Dr Allison said.
"But if you can't look after yourself you can't look after anyone."
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