Remote clinics return to the North

The La Ronge clinic’s temporary surgery. Supplied photo.

Despite challenges caused by COVID-19, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) resumed its annual remote veterinary clinics for northern Saskatchewan communities this spring.

The college’s team, along with community volunteers, held two clinics in Saskatoon and La Ronge in May and June after a one-year break.

“I think being able to get there, honestly, was a bit of a mark of success,” says Dr. Jordan Woodsworth, WCVM clinical associate and remote clinic co-ordinator. “Everything was a little bit last minute in terms of figuring out whether we can go or not.”

Since 2014, the WCVM has been working with northern organizations and community members of the La Ronge area to provide veterinary care. The remote clinics also provide valuable learning experiences for students in the college’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program.

Saskatchewan’s high COVID-19 case counts and an outbreak at the WCVM forced the college to change its plans for a northern clinic in May. Instead, volunteer organizations and owners brought animals to the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre for wellness examinations and spay-neuter procedures.

When organizers received the go-ahead for La Ronge’s June clinic, volunteers converted the local community centre into a veterinary clinic with the ice surface serving as the temporary surgery area. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, owners weren’t allowed to accompany their pets into the building where clinical team members conducted wellness examinations, gave vaccinations and performed spay-neuter surgeries.

Between 80 and 100 volunteers usually operate the clinic, but this year, the clinical team consisted of only 20 people. Over four days, the team performed 56 wellness examinations and 38 spay and neuter surgeries for local cats and dogs.

The La Ronge clinics are part of the WCVM’s clinical training for senior veterinary students. Three fourth-year veterinary students took part in the May clinic, while in June, Megan Meardi and Taylor Davies spent five days in La Ronge completing surgeries and wellness appointments as part of their rotation.

Davies participated in the rotation as a means of getting some more experience after having limited hands-on opportunities through the pandemic, while Meardi signed up due to the positive reviews she’d heard from other students.

“I looked into it and originally it was, ‘Wow, that would be a lot of good surgical experience and a lot of good clinical experience’ … but it was so much more than that,” says Meardi.

Woodsworth says that the team is hoping to expand the program and organize a future clinic in Île-à-la-Crosse, Sask.: “Hopefully in the fall we’ll be getting up to the northwest part of the province, and then we’ll see from there how that goes.” 

Jessica Colby of Montmartre, Sask., is a University of Regina journalism student. She worked at the WCVM as a summer research communications intern in 2021.


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