“We’re trying to provide as many services as possible,” said Capt. Marion Alston, officer-in-charge of the Wiesbaden Veterinary Treatment Facility.
Unfortunately, due to a major staffing shortfall, the clinic has had to greatly limit its opening hours and some services for the past several months.
“We are trying to spread the message that we’re short-staffed, but are also doing everything we can to continue helping the community either directly or by referring them to local host nation veterinarians. Our mission to take great care of their pets hasn’t changed,” Alston said, explaining that a variety of factors critically impacted the facility’s ability to serve patrons.
A change in the civilian hiring process resulting in a much lengthier backfill procedure, financial changes and having to serve a priority mission in Heidelberg during the summer months detrimentally impacted the overall operation at the Wiesbaden facility, he said.
“About four years ago if the Veterinary Treatment Facility wanted to hire or fire folks we’d use the local personnel resources,” Alston said, explaining that now hiring actions are handled stateside through the Public Health Command which services every veterinary clinic in the world. From a quick two-week average turnaround in replacing a position, that has become a lengthy two- to three-month process.
With two current receptionist vacancies, only one of two civilian veterinary technicians in place, a military veterinary technician on maternity leave and other challenges, the remaining staff is trying to do the best they can to help community members and their pets, he said.
“The veterinary tech position requires a highly qualified, very specific skill set,” Alston said. “Because we’re overseas, the hiring pool is extremely limited.”
As an example of the challenges facing the clinic, he described how after an 11-month search to fill one of the civilian veterinary technicians positions by hiring a military family member with “some wildlife experience” and the resulting training required to get the individual up to speed, a permanent change of station move took the recently hired individual back to the States.
“We’re usually looking at a year or two tops of retaining a qualified individual before he or she moves on. … We’re lobbying to be able to hire a local national veterinary technician which would provide a little more stability,” he said.
That person could serve as a counterpart to the longtime host nation veterinarian on the staff.
“In addition to family pet care, our team is also responsible for several other missions,” he said. These missions include care of military working dogs, health and welfare checks of other animals housed on post (such as those used by the Pond Security Service) and issues relevant to public health, such as management of animal bite cases. “These additional missions place a further drain on our already limited personnel resources. We also have the same Army training requirements as other Soldiers.”
In the meantime, Alston asked that community members be patient while clinic staff members do their best to provide services and information.
“I really hope that by October we’ll have a full staff,” he said, explaining that all of the jobs have been posted or recently closed and a new Army veterinary technician is expected to come on board next month. “We should have plenty of bodies by that time and be operational.”
Pet owners getting ready to make a PCS move should call the clinic to make an appointment for a free health certificate. “Civilian veterinarians on average do not have the same expertise or experience as our team in dealing with international pet movement,” Alston said.
Although limited, the clinic is still offering appointments for both sick and routine pet care. Clients should contact the clinic to schedule an appointment, but understand that in the best interests of their pet, they may be referred to a host nation veterinarian.
The clinic is currently open Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is located in Building 1038 on Clay Kaserne. Call mil 337-6283 or civ (0611) 705-6283 for appointments and information or visit the clinic’s home page at www.wiesbaden.army.mil/sites/services/veterinary_services.asp for details on care, posting of all scheduled closures and a listing of local host nation veterinarians.