Farmers complain as Letterkenny vet closes temporarily

British owners of Donegal Animal Hospital cite shortage of vets and other ‘legal’ issues

The company said the temporary closure had nothing to do with the impending threat of a no-deal Brexit. Photograph: iStock

The company said the temporary closure had nothing to do with the impending threat of a no-deal Brexit. Photograph: iStock

 

A Donegal vet has been temporarily closed by its British owner due to regulatory issues and staff shortages, leaving farmers complaining they have lost access to urgent care for their animals.

The Donegal Animal Hospital in Letterkenny, which is owned by Vetcare, a major British chain of veterinarians, cited “challenges in the practice” and referred its customers to other nearby chains.

It is understood the company told staff members on Friday morning it was closing temporarily due to recent difficulties, including a shortage of vets, but also due to “other legal/regulatory issues”.

It also told staff there had been a Department of Agriculture investigation, which it cited as another reason for the temporary closure.

Johnny Duncan, a farmer from the area, said he had sought treatment for a cow which is sick with summer mastisis.

“The place was closed; I had to go back out again. She’s not treated, she’s a sick cow.”

He said he could not obtain any medicine from the vet’s practice. “It is very urgent,” he said.

Broken leg

One source, who asked not to be named, said a farmer had brought a calf with a broken leg for urgent medical attention. The calf was left outside the animal hospital for two hours, without pain relief or treatment, before being sent to another practice across the Border to be treated.

A spokeswoman for the company confirmed the temporary closure of the practice due to “staffing and other regulatory issues”.

When asked about a Department of Agriculture investigation, it said it had no comment.

“The closure will give us time to solve these issues. We are working with other practices on both sides of the Border to ensure continuity of care for animals,” a spokeswoman said. The company said the temporary closure had nothing to do with the impending threat of a no-deal Brexit.

Employees were told that the terms of their employment will still apply and they will continue to be paid as the company plans its next steps.

Request for comment

The Department of Agriculture did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Vetcare purchased the Donegal practice from a local family of veterinarians eight months ago, it is understood. In addition to that business, it owns two other practices in Ireland. In Cork, it runs Sunbeam while in Dublin it runs a company called Anicare.

Corporate records filed with the UK Companies House show that the company has been on a buying spree in recent years, acquiring 229 veterinary practices during 2017.