‘I feel like I have been dropped into a sci-fi movie.’ are words spoken by a friend a few days ago, and part of me cannot help but think, ‘Is that where we’re headed?’ Most of us have never experienced a pandemic of this nature. It was interesting to read about a 106-year old man who survived the Spanish flu, the holocaust and now coronavirus. I pray we are all so resilient!

As I scroll through the pictures on my i-phone from December last year I think back to how I felt then. At that time coronavirus was in China and seemed far from my family and me, all the way down here on the southernmost tip of Africa. 

But as I write this blog South Africa is on day 9 of full lockdown. I am not allowed to take my dogs for a walk or go for a run. Things have changed, and I fear that they will never be the same again. 

We are all anxious to get back to work, to see our clients and treat our patients, but let’s be realistic. Our practices will not be the same as they were pre-COVID-19. 

When the restrictions are lifted, we are likely to look at each other with different eyes, as everyone is now a potential carrier. Will we hug? Will we gather in meetings? It is hard to know now. I really miss hugs. 

I also wonder how this will affect our children. Mine have become compulsive hand washers. Will our children become a generation of germaphobes? Will grabbing a mask as you leave the house be as natural as grabbing your keys and handbag? 

Even when the world’s lockdowns are lifted, many people will still be anxious about contracting the virus. Some might need a few months before venturing out again. Some of our older clients are high risk and will probably still need to self- isolate.

Some of us have embraced online work by offering teleconsults. Initially, we may have thought this was a temporary measure just for lockdown. But the reality is that teleconsults may need to become a part of our normal range of practice offerings.

Teleconsults were already increasing in popularity before the coronavirus outbreak, but were not something we vetrehabbers really embraced. Now, those who don’t embrace them may well find themselves being left behind by their tech-crunching colleagues. 

Waiting rooms may be a thing of the past, at least for the next few months. Consultations will need to be performed with minimal contact. Clients will wait in their cars as therapists’ assistants come out to fetch their patients. Clients waiting in cars will speak to you on the phone or on a zoom call. Some clients might use the opportunity to go and do their shopping. If they are late, how will this affect your next consult? Where will the patient be kept? Who will hold the patient while you get the next patient waiting with his owner in the car? 

I suggest you start thinking now (if you have not already done so) how your daily systems will need to be updated to handle a whole new reality. Things we should be considering are: Who will fetch each patient? Who will return the patients to the client’s car? How will this system affect the length of appointments? How will clients pay and book their next appointment? 

What safety measures will we need to put in place to protect our teams and our clients? Masks, gloves, hand sanitiser are basic. Will you wipe the dogs down before and after you treat them? How will you handle and sanitise leads and collars? 

You will also need a system and a protocol if you or your team are exposed to someone positive. What will you do if one of your team contracts the coronavirus?

If your practice booking system was not online before, now is the time to activate this. Online booking and easy online payment systems are a must as we decrease the human-to-human contact in our practices. 

We all have the same question: How long will lockdown go on for? It’s one of those frustrating questions to which the answer is beyond our control. The more important question is, are you ready for when restrictions are lifted? You may have an influx of demanding clients wanting their pets to be treated first. Will you give certain cases priority? You could start offering ‘first-day’ appointments right now, getting clients to pay a full consult deposit. This will ensure their pet gets a consult on the first day that restrictions are lifted. It could also help your cash flow now during lockdown. 

There is a lot to think about. Now is the time to plan and consider the way in which you intend to handle all sorts of future situations. Spend some time brainstorming with your team now, while you have the time.

As the saying goes, ‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.’ 

Stay safe, vetrehabbers. 

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