Vets hit discrimination: We’re frontliners too
MANILA, Philippines — While providing medical services and running a business in the middle of a pandemic are challenging enough for any professional, veterinarians also find themselves dealing with discrimination, particularly from national and local quarantine protocol enforcers who do not consider them front-liners because their patients are “just animals.”
“When we say that we are veterinarians, all we can see on their faces is confusion. They argue that we are not medical front-liners,” said Dr. Norbert Robles, who has been practicing veterinary medicine for the past five years.
He recalled that in the first few weeks of the Luzon-wide lockdown due to the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), barangay officials asked him to shut down his Pet-Link Wellness Center and Veterinary Clinic in Caloocan City.
But under resolutions issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, veterinary clinics are among essential medical facilities allowed to operate with a skeleton workforce in areas under enhanced community quarantine.
Robles said that on the night the barangay officials came to see him, they were treating three emergency cases. The village chair eventually allowed the clinic to operate 24/7 after seeing the need for their services. The problem, however, did not end there. According to him, some policemen manning checkpoints scattered around Metro Manila often do not give them passage, for the reason that they are not aware of the nature of their work.
Robles said it often takes them at least two to three minutes to explain that they are also doctors to patients whose lives are just as important as people’s.
“This is the common life of veterinarians. We are usually the less appreciated profession in the medical field. We are often told that our patients are just animals, not humans,” he added. He pointed out that all doctors, whether of people or animals, have the same goal: to save lives.
According to Robles, the pandemic has also created another problem: the temporary or permanent closure of many veterinary clinics in Metro Manila due to financial problems.
As a result, clients seeking medical help for their pets must endure a long wait, partly also because of the observance of mandatory health protocols.
At Pet-Link, only one pet owner is allowed per consultation room. The rest must wait in an area outside the clinic.
Now that their patients sometimes reach 50 a day, they are forced to refer other clients to nearby clinics that can accommodate them. Unfortunately, in some cases, the animals eventually die of their illnesses.Robles also noticed a steady increase in the number of owners abandoning their pets due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Please value your pets and other animals as much as you value your family, friends and relatives… Don’t bring your pets [to us] when they are already at their worst because we are not miracle workers,” he said.
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