by Gabrielle Angela T. Diaz Sales
With the pandemic came an increase of people buying and adopting pets — something veterinarian Lala Ramchandani was happy about. For veterinarians like her, however, it meant a rise in the number of patients they had to handle each day.
“Kumbaga dumadami yung pet owners na ngangailangan ng vet care pero konti lang kaming vets. So challenging talaga kasi dumadami na yung demand for veterinary care.”
Doc Lala, as she is also known, is currently a resident Veterinarian for Serbisyo Beterinaryo Animal Hospital in BF Homes Parañaque. Originally from Biñan, Laguna, Doc Lala graduated from the University of the Philippines Los Baños with a degree in Veterinary Medicine.
“I was already working [before the pandemic started] and I still continue to work even during the lockdown, kasi yung hospital namin is an emergency hospital. Never ako nag-stop, never ako na-out of work during the pandemic”
Last March 2020, when the lockdown first started, Doc Lala was still working at the clinic’s Santa Rosa branch. The announcement of Luzon’s enhanced community quarantine was sudden– vet clinics, like many other services, were supposed to be closed down.
But the number of pet-owners calling the clinic for emergencies was overwhelming. Doc Lala voluntarily chose to keep working, keeping the clinic open 24-hours.
“I remember thinking to myself: Kaya ko ba? At that time, ako nalang talaga yung last option. Kung hindi ako papasok, magcloclose yung clinic, walang mapupuntahan yung mga tao. Kumbaga siguro, at that time, na-feel ko, ah, this is my calling.”
Workplace changes for both vet staff and pet-owners
Originally from Biñan, Laguna, Doc Lala decided to move to Parañaque to be closer to her workplace. To decrease their staff’s exposure to COVID, their vet clinic now also provides staff quarters where they can stay after their shifts. Meanwhile, those who go home after work or on their days off avoid commuting, instead using a private car to go home.
“Before the pandemic everything was easy… kumbaga anyone can come (to the clinic), anyone can visit. It was usually a family affair pero ngayon very strict na talaga,” Doc Lala said.
Like regular clinics, veterinary clinics have also adopted strict COVID-19 safety protocols. Both clients and staff are required to wear face masks and face shields. Clients can now only come by appointment and are required to submit a contact tracing form.
“Sa amin kasi, sa small animal field, part of our work is handling clients—talking to the owners”
With social distancing, pet owners can no longer stay close to their pets and comfort them during appointments. While this is frustrating to pet owners, Doc Lala said it could also be frustrating for the clinic staff too.
“We care about our patients, but we also care about ourselves. Mahirap na if magkasakit kami kasi maapektuhan ang buong hospital.
“Minsan hindi naiintidihan ng clients yung strictness namin when it comes to COVID protocols is for our own safety which sometimes they don’t understand kasi naiisip lang nila yung kapakanan nung pet nila–na ayaw nila iwanan mag-isa.”