Rotas and risk assessments: VCI issues updated Covid-19 guidelines

The Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI) has issued updated guidance for vets around the country as coronavirus (Covid-19) continues to spread.

In a statement issued on Friday, March 20, the council highlighted that it is increasingly likely that over the coming weeks, due to self-isolation or social distancing measures, veterinary practices across the country will be stretched.


“It is vital that we all work together to mitigate against the possible impacts of our own and our colleagues’ well-being, as well as serious animal welfare impacts, insofar as is possible,” the VCI said.

The council highlighted that all veterinary practices should be carrying out individual risk assessments and considering whether it is appropriate to continue with routine consultations to adjust to the expected workforce strain and to ensure the health and safety of the profession.

It was stressed that practices should now put social distancing measures in place, such as asking clients to wait in the car park rather than the waiting room, triaging as much as possible via telephone, considering alternate rota models and in determining whether or not it is appropriate to continue seeing routine consultations.

Providing advice for when assessing whether to attend to an animal whose owner is in self isolation or has been diagnosed with Covid-19, the VCI said:

“Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that animals can transmit the virus but, in accordance with HSE [Health and Safety Executive] guidance, please ensure that the appropriate hygiene and bio-security precautions are taken if you deem it necessary to see the patient for animal welfare reasons.”

With the strain on the veterinary workforce expected to be “significant at some point”, the council urges neighbouring practices to maintain close contact with each other and work together in efforts, as far as possible, to continue attending to animals requiring emergency care.

Business supports and medicine supplies

Turning to what supports are available for vets as businesses, the council noted that the coming weeks will be a period of “significant financial difficulty”.

The VCI pointed to measures announced by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, complete with a link for impacted companies.

Continuing to the issue of veterinary medical supplies, the council encouraged vets and other prescribers and retailers of veterinary medicines “to continue with normal ordering patterns to maintain appropriate and proportionate stocks of veterinary medicines, in line with assurances from Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE)”.

If this is undertaken, there should be no need for additional stocks, the veterinary council added.

Concluding, the council noted its own measures to protect staff and members, highlighting that its office is closed to the public at present with some staff working remotely.

“Registration, committee meetings and council meetings are proceeding as planned for now, with strict social distancing measures in force, and all matters remaining under constant review.”