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Caring for Animals in a Remote Australian Town

Dr. Deborah Osborne, BVSc, Alice Springs Veterinary Hospital

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The Alice Springs Veterinary Hospital is a small animal practice located right in the center of Australia. We are 1 of 3 veterinary practices in Alice Springs, both of the other practices opened in 2014. Prior to that, we were the only practice in town, with our neighboring practices 1200 kilometers away, to the north and south.

Remote but Flea Free!

Alice Springs has a population of 28,000 and is the largest town between the capital cities of Darwin (1500 kilometers to the north) and Adelaide (1500 kilometers to the south). It has a desert climate—hot and dry in summer and cold and dry in winter, which means we don’t have fleas!

Our hospital is purpose built and comprises 5 consulting rooms (with one just for cats), 6 hospital wards (one for cats, an isolation ward, an intensive care/surgical recovery ward, and 3 dog wards), a large treatment area that is the hub of the hospital, 2 surgery suites, an imaging room, pharmacy, pathology area, staff room, vets’ office, director’s office, and practice manager’s office. The reception area has a waiting alcove just for cats. All wards are soundproof, which makes it less stressful for staff and patients.

Staffing & Access to Services

Currently, we have 5 veterinarians, 7 veterinary nurses, 2 receptionists, a practice manager, and a cleaner. The hospital is staffed from 8 am to 8 pm 7 days a week, including public holidays. At other times, a veterinarian is on call for emergencies and to provide after-hours care for hospitalized patients. We also provide the after-hours service for one of the other clinics in town.

Our pathology equipment allows us to do most of our blood analysis in-house. Samples need to be flown interstate to the lab and the courier goes once a day. This means it could take over 24 hours for our samples just to get to the lab. For most blood work (hematology and serum biochemical panels) this is an unacceptable turnaround time, so having in-house pathology equipment is essential for good patient care. For microbiology and histopathology, we use an external veterinary pathology lab.

There are no veterinary specialists in Alice Springs; however, our clients are used to having to travel interstate for their own specialist medical care, so many think nothing of flying a pet interstate to see a specialist if that is what we recommend. We have a great relationship with most specialist practices around Australia and can arrange to send our patients wherever is most convenient for the client. Of course, travelling interstate to a specialist is not always an option, and we try to ensure that we have the skills and equipment to provide most services on site.

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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This article is published as part of the Global Edition of Clinician's Brief. Through partnership with the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, the Global Edition provides educational resources to practitioners around the world.

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