Many questions have come up about COVID-19 and how the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) is responding to coronavirus-related issues on the University of Saskatchewan (USask) campus.

At this time, the public health risk associated with COVID-19 is low for the general population in Canada but this could change rapidly. There is an increased risk of more severe outcomes for Canadians:

  • aged 65 and over
  • with compromised immune systems
  • with underlying medical conditions

The WCVM is planning for certain scenarios involving people and animals associated with the veterinary college. Because this is a rapidly changing situation, please continue to check the USask website, along with the provincial and federal government websites.  

WCVM updates

Dear WCVM community:

It seems as though we are hitting our stride as we continue to work through the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the representatives who joined our daily operations scrum this morning reported that their areas were carrying on without many new issues in academics, student services, finance, animal care, research and graduate studies, wellness, human resources or college administration. The USask Deans Council focused largely on issues moving forward for fall and the 2020-2021 academic year.

In my weekly online meeting with the AAVMC deans, it’s clear that we are all dealing with many of the same issues. Today’s call included discussions on the Veterinary Internship and Residency Matching Program (VIRMP), summer scholars research, the status of externships and external rotations, international students, and implementing Council on Education guidance for hands-on training under COVID-19 conditions.

In fact, our college leaders in academics, research, finance, communications, development, wellness and social work are also connecting with counterparts from other schools to share ideas and best practices. While we are continually working to overcome challenges in this new environment, we have great colleagues to work with in the veterinary community. Perhaps a positive outcome of this pandemic will be the creativity and innovation that people use to solve today’s problems will also fuel new ideas in the future.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. We appreciate your questions and feedback.

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean



DAILY ALERTS

VMC CASE MANAGEMENT PROCEDURES: Based on input from a working group representing clinicians, registered veterinary technologists and college leadership, the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre released its procedures for managing cases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the next few weeks, we do expect that these procedures will need to be modified as we learn more from trusted, science-based sources, as team members identify issues with certain supplies, or as people suggest more effective methods. We all agree that these documents are a “work in progress.” But what they do help to ensure is that all VMC team members are following the same protocols so we can help protect the health and safety of our employees as well as our clients. Human health is our primary concern, and following standardized procedures based on collective assessment of information from many sources is one key method to maintaining a safe environment.

These procedures focus on managing small animal cases, but team members in the Large Animal Clinic and in the Field Service unit can refer to the documents as guidelines for their own practices. The WCVM working group will work on adapting the case management procedures for large animals with the input of team members in the Large Animal Clinic and Field Service.

Printed copies of the VMC case management procedures will be available later this week. All of the information is now available online (click links below). 

Visit web page | Download fact sheet | Download poster

REPORTS DUE: While many things have dramatically changed in the past few weeks, some deadlines remain the same — including USask’s fiscal year-end on April 30, 2020. If you have any travel expense reports or other expense reports (such as reimbursements for membership dues or books) to complete for reimbursement of expenses incurred from May 1, 2019, to April 30, 2020, please submit your Concur expense report to the finance group for review by Monday, April 20 (or as soon as you can if your trip return date is after April 20). These reports need to be completed with all approvals in place by April 30, 2020. If you have questions or concerns, contact Ginger Appel as soon as possible.

CUSTODIAL UPDATE: The custodial teams working at the WCVM are part of the college’s overall efforts to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that vital operations continue in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) and in other parts of the building. Since the veterinary college is one of the few buildings on campus that’s still open, USask shifted employees from other colleges to help the WCVM’s existing custodial team. The custodial unit also began rotating staff so employees work no more than two to three shifts per week — minimizing their time on campus.

In partnership with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, custodial management at USask took additional health and safety training — including a webinar to learn more about the coronavirus, proper PPE (personal protective equipment), cleaning techniques and effective use of cleaning products. Assistant managers have been sharing information with staff members during daily huddles where the teams review the importance of cleaning common touch points and high-traffic areas. The custodial team is also working on signs for their staff to remind them about key practices such as social distancing and washing hands.

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.    

 

Dear WCVM community:

On April 3, a group representing clinical team members and college leadership met to discuss and finalize the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre’s procedures for managing cases during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group also discussed appropriate protocols for handling cats, ferrets and hamsters. Preliminary data suggests that these species can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and can possibly transmit the virus to other animals, and potentially, to people.

Based on Friday’s meeting, we believed we were close to finalizing the hospital’s standard procedures for case management during the pandemic. However, the discussion opened again on April 5 after the news broke about a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo testing positive for SARS-CoV-2.

This case is important for two reasons. First, this was not an experimental inoculation. Zoo officials presume that transmission was through direct or indirect contact with an animal handler who tested positive for COVID-19. Second, the handler was asymptomatic — reinforcing the important issue of asymptomatic carriers in the community. What’s also important to note is that there is still no indication that animals are transmitting the virus back to people. The known risk is still direct or indirect contact between people. 

Earlier today, our working group met to discuss the implications of this news on the VMC’s standardized procedures for case management. There has been significant information shared between North American veterinary teaching hospitals as well. As always, our goal is to use the most current scientific evidence to guide our decisions about safely managing cases in the veterinary teaching hospital.

We will report back to the WCVM community as soon as possible and we're finalizing our set of documents — including a fact sheet and posters — that will be used to help guide the practices of our clinical teams. What’s become clear is that these procedures may need to change as new information and findings come to light.

I want to thank everyone involved in this process — particularly Dr. Steve Manning for his leadership in the VMC throughout this ever-changing situation. Everyone is doing their best to protect the health of our staff and keep our hospital open so we can continue serving the profession and our community.   

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean

 

Today's alerts

VMC OPERATIONS: Clinical teams experienced a busy — but manageable — weekend at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. There were a number of small animal emergency cases along with a couple of emergencies in Large Animal Clinic.

VIRTUAL POSTER COMPETITION: In the middle of a global pandemic, the WCVM  found a virtual way to celebrate the research work of its graduate students. Organizers of the college’s annual graduate student poster day, which was originally scheduled for March 26, quickly switched the event to an online competition once it became clear that the University of Saskatchewan (USask) campus would close to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Our thanks to Dr. Liz Snead, her team and all of the judges for making the competition a success. Congratulations to all our winners!
Read full story 

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.  

Dear WCVM community:

Thanks to everyone who tuned in to watch the COVID-19 webinar with Dr. Darryl Falzarano of VIDO-InterVac this morning. We hope the presentation helped to answer some of your questions about SARS-CoV-2 and the role of companion animals in this complex issue. The webinar recording will be available online next week, and we’ll make sure to share the link as soon as it’s available.  

Finally, I want to thank Dr. Falzarano for taking the time to talk about COVID-19 and the latest research findings. We truly appreciate your willingness to help your colleagues at the WCVM.

If you can, please take some time to rest during the weekend. Thank you to everyone for all of your efforts!

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean

 

Today's alerts

WCVM IN THE NEWS: Dr. Steve Manning, associate dean of clinical programs at the WCVM, was interviewed by agriculture reporter Neil Billinger of CJWW Radio for a story about the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre’s (VMC) efforts to provide essential veterinary services during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to describing the WCVM Field Service teams’ work with food animals and horses, Dr. Manning gave an update on how animals — large and small — are being cared for inside the VMC and the protocols in place to protect employees and animal owners.

“Our staff and vets have stepped up and are working really hard under very hard conditions to provide services that we think are really important. And if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to do it,” said Dr. Manning. “We’re just really proud of the people that we have at the college who are providing that service."


Read story | Listen to full interview

HAVE A QUESTION? If you have any health-related questions about COVID-19 — whether it’s about personal protective equipment (PPE), preventive protocols or recent scientific findings — please send them on to us, and we’ll do our best to track down the answers for you. Send your questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca   

Dear WCVM community:

Tomorrow morning, everyone is welcome to join a very timely webinar featuring two USask scientists — Drs. Volker Gerdts and Darryl Falzarano — who are conducting groundbreaking COVID-19 vaccine research at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac). We are extremely grateful for their help in providing the latest information about this coronavirus and answering questions about COVID-19 from the WCVM team.

Since I won’t have the chance to introduce our two speakers online, here’s some background in advance:

• Dr. Volker Gerdts received his DVM degree at Hanover Veterinary School and completed a German PhD equivalent from the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health and Hanover Veterinary School. After working as postdoctoral fellow at VIDO-InterVac for two years, Dr. Gerdts eventually joined the organization in 2002 as a research scientist. He was appointed VIDO-InterVac’s associate director of research in 2007 and then became director and CEO in 2019. Dr. Gerdts is also a professor in the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Microbiology.

 • Dr. Darryl Falzarano received his PhD from the University of Manitoba in 2010. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in Montana. Dr. Falzarano joined VIDO-InterVac as a research scientist in 2014. He is also an adjunct professor in the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Microbiology.

There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19 coronavirus. VIDO-InterVac is the first lab in the country to have a vaccine candidate in animal testing. The vaccine was made in February, and researchers expect to know in about four weeks whether the vaccine works in an animal model. Clinical testing of this vaccine in people could begin as early as this fall.

Tune in at 10 a.m. tomorrow — just click on the invitation link that Dr. Falzarano sent to everyone this morning. And if you can’t watch the webinar live, a recorded version will soon be available online.

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean

 


Special precautions in VMC

Research has shown that the risk of contracting COVID-19 from animals is extremely low. Current information indicates that the virus has a short life span on a pet’s fur, and the risk of transmission from most pets is minimal. The known risk is human-to-human transmission. However, preliminary data suggests that ferrets and cats can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and transmit the virus to other animals, and potentially, to people.

As a precaution, the VMC leadership team is recommending that clinical team members wear face shields in addition to other personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling cats and ferrets that are admitted for emergency care. This recommendation is included in a new fact sheet and posters outlining the procedures and key messages for managing cases at the VMC. These new resources will be distributed and posted as soon as possible.

Today's alerts

CLINICIANS UNITE: Earlier this week, many WCVM clinicians volunteered to assist the VMC’s new shift teams because of high caseloads in surgery, anesthesia and medicine services. Thanks to their willingness to help, these clinicians are now embedded in the shifts and doing a wonderful job of supporting their team members and the entire hospital.

STUDENT ASSISTANCE: The COVID-19 pandemic has created additional financial strain for many students. If you are a veterinary student or a graduate student who is in financial need, the University of Saskatchewan (USask) and the WCVM both offer funds that may be able to provide you with some emergency support. Please visit the WCVM’s coronavirus web page for more details.

PERSONAL MAIL: Please arrange for all personal mail and packages to be delivered to your home mailing address — not to the WCVM. The WCVM is receiving a mail delivery once a week, but the USask campus is closed to everyone other than core and critical staff. Only invoices and cheques are being delivered to departments and units; all non-essential mail is stored in the college’s General Office.  

LFCE CALVING: Team members at the USask Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence (LFCE) are in the middle of round-the-clock calving season. As of April 2, over 100 of the 400-plus pregnant cows on site had calved. The recent snowfall and colder weather have helped to keep pens relatively clean at the LFCE’s Cow-Calf Research and Teaching Unit.  

Dear WCVM community:

I hope you are all doing well. As we’ve all come to realize, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint. We all need to ensure that we’re taking care of our physical health as well as our mental wellness as we work through the daily pressures. 

We are also realizing that, thankfully, we are in smoother patch on our COVID rollercoaster. The work we have begun continues, and we don’t have much news to report tonight. 

I hope some of you were able to join tonight’s webinar with Dr. Marie Holowaychuk, a WCVM graduate who has become a strong voice advocating for mental wellness in the veterinary field. Another wonderful resource is Erin Wasson, our veterinary social worker. Erin recently created a fact sheet called Well-being during COVID-19 that has been an invaluable resource for all of us.  

We’ve set up an email address (wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca) for anyone who has questions or concerns about the college’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Emails go to WCVM human resources personnel and please be assured that all requests and concerns will be kept confidential.

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


 

COVID-19 preparations

The WCVM’s COVID-19 response team has been working on resources for clinical teams working in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC). The first project is an informational poster that outlines the procedures and key messages for managing cases at the VMC.

While these preventive protocols are already in place and working well to protect employees from potential exposure, these posters will help to remind everyone of these important steps as they go about their daily work. They should also add more detail and clarify everyone’s role to ensure everyone understands and follows the same procedures. The team is working to have the posters finalized and produced as soon as possible.

Today's alerts

ROTATIONS: Online fourth-year rotations appear to be doing well since starting up on March 30. There have been no major technical glitches and both students and clinical faculty are busy with the online content. The fourth-year students have taken things in stride and are making the best of a challenging situation as they work to complete the year.

 

Dear WCVM community:

I hope everyone is doing well as we all settle into our new routines. While our main focus is within the WCVM, we are still engaged with campus leadership and our counterparts across North America on issues and recommendations related to our programs. We will continue to keep you appraised of information and updates, and please let us know if you have questions or suggestions.

Thanks to you all for your ongoing dedication and innovation. It's been fantastic.

Stay well, 
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


Managing caseloads in a pandemic

On March 30, the VMC leadership team held a video meeting with small animal clinicians representing most of the services in the hospital’s Small Animal Clinic. The meeting’s purpose was to review current operations and caseloads as well as to determine the team’s capabilities under the current circumstances. Although the VMC is only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment, the small animal surgery, anesthesia and medicine services have been extremely busy — to the point of being overwhelmed during the past weekend.

The meeting was very positive, and many clinicians in other services have offered to help the core teams in surgery and medicine. Those clinicians will become part of the VMC’s new shift teams that were developed as a safety measure to limit exposure in case an employee becomes COVID-positive. We would welcome more volunteers to help with any part of the process; please respond to this email if you can lend a hand. The meeting was also a good opportunity for team members to discuss the level of service that the VMC can continue offering during a pandemic situation — especially if the hospital continues to see surges in emergency cases during weekends.

Managing the risks of COVID-19 at work

As the number of COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan rises, our hospital team is facing the challenge of treating animals in medical distress whose owners are COVID-positive. While this is a stressful situation for everyone, we need to remember that the risk of contracting the virus from animals is extremely low. Contracting the virus from pets is considered a theoretical route of transmission at this point. Based on the most current information from various sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that the virus causing COVID-19 can spread to people from the skin or fur of companion animals. The greatest risk is still person-to-person transmission. 

By following the VMC’s preventive protocols, which are based on recommendations from biosecurity experts in the animal health and human health fields, we can control the risk and continue doing our jobs safely. Those protocols and our client management are the same whether the client is known to be COVID-positive or not.

To help answer the VMC team’s questions and concerns about COVID-19, the WCVM is working with researchers from the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) to set up a live webinar that will be available to all employees at the VMC. Additional resource links are also posted on the WCVM coronavirus web page.

Today's alerts

GRADUATE STUDENT POSTER DAY: The WCVM’s annual graduate student poster competition wrapped up today, and once all of the judges’ scores and remarks have been reviewed, the Research Office will release this year’s list of award recipients. Thank you to all of the competition’s judges, who set up online meetings with individual students so they could ask questions about their research.  

SUMMER RESEARCH: The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office is still waiting for the University of Saskatchewan’s final decision on summer research programs since campus is closed to students until Sept. 1, 2020. The WCVM Research Office is planning to go forward with any current awards that can be managed by students remotely, and some WCVM faculty mentors have confirmed that this may be feasible with their proposed projects. Once more information is released from the USask Office of the Vice-President Research (OVPR), the college’s Research Office will alert research teams and students.

Dear WCVM community:

We have been operating in our COVID-19 response mode for a couple of weeks now. Our leadership and managers group continues to meet daily, but it's become clear that we are entering a phase where our activities are smoothing out. We don’t seem to have the major changes happening each day — or even hourly. 

In response to that adjustment, we're shifting the format of this communication so it focuses on important changes and messages. The units from across the college are still exchanging information daily, so feel free to contact us (wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca) with questions in any given area. 

Stay well, 
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


 

WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre

While many members of the WCVM community had the opportunity to recharge over the past couple of days, clinical teams at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre worked through a hectic weekend. With most veterinary clinics in Saskatoon cancelling weekend hours, the VMC's emergency service — especially for small animals — was extremely busy. 

The VMC has now operated through an entire week using the new shift schedules that were developed to reduce contact among employees in the hospital and to prepare for the potential issue of clinical team members becoming ill. While the shifts still seem to be the best way to manage clinical services safely and effectively, VMC leadership and clinicians are meeting today to discuss ways to augment the teams with more clinical assistance in managing periods of high demand. Thank you to the VMC leadership team and everyone who is coming together to find solutions. 

Another message that comes through clearly and repeatedly is the way VMC staff throughout the hospital are stepping up and demonstrating leadership and teamwork. 


Year 4 rotations

After a one-week break, rotations began today with online delivery and new external sites for fourth-year students who were scheduled to be in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. During the one-week break, students' schedules were adjusted and all of the materials were set up online in anticipation of today's start. Thank you to the clinicians and the Student Services team for their quick response.


Today's alerts

MASTER PLAN ON HOLD: Over the past few months, many of you have participated in the Master Plan consultation process through organized focus groups, informal discussions and other means of feedback. All suggestions, ideas and feedback will be used to develop a report that will help to inform future design discussions and final recommendations. While COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the WCVM’s daily operations, it’s also put a hold on the veterinary college’s long-term planning for its building and use of space for now. 

CAMPUS CLOSURE AND SECURITY: For WCVM employees who are designated as providing essential services, the university has still not articulated how it will enforce security and campus closure. This may also affect owners who are bringing animals to the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre in medical distress for emergency care. We do understand that vehicles should not be stopped by USask campus security, and the university's security team will not be using barricades or checkpoints to monitor people's access to campus. Even so, anyone who is not deemed as core or critical staff to the WCVM's operations should not come to campus. If you have questions about core/critical staff assignments, please contact the WCVM Dean's Office

IMPORTANT REMINDERS: As we establish a routine for managing in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, please remember to follow all policies and procedures for minimizing the potential for exposure to or the spread of COVID-19. We have seen groups trying to meet or individuals forgetting a step in preventive procedures — please be mindful for the safety of yourselves and everyone around you. 

  • For all employees entering the college, avoid using the VMC entrance. Please use other doors.
  • All non-VMC personnel must stay completely out of the hospital; do not use the breezeway as a thoroughfare. 
  • We can successfully navigate this outbreak together. Follow these key steps that will help to slow down the spread of infection and protect vulnerable members of our community. 

Dear WCVM community:

Here is the latest update of the veterinary college’s efforts in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.If you have questions or concerns, please contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca. As well, visit the USask COVID-19 page to read the university’s latest updates and listing of resources for students, staff and faculty.

We have made it through our second week since the Government of Saskatchewan ramped up its response to COVID-19, and although we still have many challenges to face, it’s astonishing to look back and see what we’ve managed to do in two weeks.

Things are far from normal, but the college’s education, clinical and research programs continue to operate (albeit on different scales). Despite the circumstances, we are still doing our best to teach, learn, diagnose, treat, support, collaborate — and work together. We appreciate all of your phenomenal efforts to make things work in so many different areas throughout the college.

Please take care of yourselves and your families.  

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


 

EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 4)

Online classes continue for all students in Years 1 to 3, along with the work in preparing the classes’ final examinations for delivery on Blackboard.

Clinical instructors are aware of the students’ schedules and ready to deliver online clinical rotations to the WCVM’s fourth-year veterinary students beginning on Monday, March 30. The academic team sincerely thanks all clinical instructors who took on the tremendous challenge of moving their clinical teaching from on site to online in less than a week. We are very grateful for your tenacity, ingenuity and ability to think outside the box. Amazing job!

 

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre continues to be only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment. Incoming cases have kept clinical teams busy; people are working together and managing the daily issues and problems as best they can. Events in the past two weeks have certainly pushed everyone out of their comfort zones, but it’s been inspiring to see the camaraderie that has grown among team members as they face challenges together.

If anyone has concerns or questions about work shifts, please contact members of the VMC leadership team who are available to help. Diane McDougall (diane.mcdougall@usask.ca) is available if anyone wishes to have a quick refresher on putting on and taking off personal protective equipment (PPE).

The Ruminant Field Service has been kept busy with calls as calving season ramps up in the Saskatoon area, and the Equine Field Service team members have been managing equine emergencies in the area. Both teams are trying to minimize the time spent in the WCVM building as much as possible and relying on their trucks as home bases.

The VMC pharmacy is upholding its policy of only filling or refilling prescriptions that are within seven days of the end of a current prescription and for only one month’s supply. As well, the VMC’s limit of one bag of pet food or one case of cans (per each type of food) per purchase is still in place (no exceptions for out-of-town clients or staff members).

College departments and units like the ACU are creating an inventory of supplies and PPE items so we have an idea of what may be available should these supplies become scarce in the VMC. We are also working with various units in the Saskatchewan Health Authority as they take steps to augment their diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities.

Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS)

Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS) is maintaining its operations and monitoring the number of diagnostic submissions. If needed, the PDS team will make further staffing adjustments to manage its demand.  

 

RESEARCH

Monitoring of essential infrastructure and equipment continues. The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office is working on set-up and arrangements for the college’s annual Graduate Student Poster competition, which is taking place on line. The WCVM’s Animal Care Unit (ACU) is operating normally using its shift schedules with no disruptions to animal care and maintenance.

Kris Ringwall, director of the Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence (LFCE), reports that essential personnel continue to operate the facility, feeding and caring for the animals and assisting with calving. The LFCE’s units are closed to the public until further notice.

 

OPERATIONS

All university buildings remain closed, with only limited access to employees deemed as critical to core operations. Important exceptions are the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre, Prairie Diagnostic Services and the WCVM’s Animal Care Unit — all deemed as essential services for maintaining animal care, health and welfare in the province. People are also needed to check on things like freezers, liquid nitrogen tanks and valuable cells cultures, and they are also listed as essential to have access to the buildings. 

The WCVM has submitted the list of the college’s essential personnel to USask Human Resources. The university is maintaining security on the closed campus, including the identification of employees who have access to campus buildings, but the process is not yet defined. We will keep you posted as the requirements become available. For now, it is recommended that you carry a university ID or business card if your presence on campus is questioned. You could also call a supervisor if necessary. As well, please visit the USask updates website for the latest announcements from the university.  

The gates for parking lots Q and V are now open 24 hours a day for all of the college’s core and critical staff. 

Mail deliveries still come to the WCVM. The college’s General Office is receiving all college mail, and as time permits, members of the Dean’s Office team are distributing essential mail items (such as invoices and cheques) to the college’s departments and units. Other items, such as magazines and publications, will remain the General Office for now.

The WCVM’s loading dock remains open for deliveries of goods for the college’s critical operations, and with approval from USask, WCVM’s regular suppliers may come directly to the college without contacting the university’s Connection Point system in advance. Please follow these instructions for all deliveries, and if you have any questions, contact Ginger Appel (ginger.appel@usask.ca):

  • Only accept packages for the WCVM. If we accept packages for other units/colleges, it will be our responsibility to deliver these items to the appropriate place on campus.
  • If couriers/suppliers try to leave non-WCVM items at our loading dock or elsewhere in the college, instruct them to contact Connection Point (306-966-2000).
  • Contact your suppliers to ensure that they are aware of this WCVM-only process. If you don’t contact them, they will follow the university’s instructions that state all goods are directed by Connection Point.
  •  If a supplier typically mails in the invoice, have them email Connection Point (connectionpoint@usask.ca) to ensure that the invoice is received.

If anyone identifies specific areas that require additional cleaning in the WCVM building, please email wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca so arrangements can be made with the custodial staff.

If WCVM staff and faculty have human resources-related questions or concerns, they are welcome to contact Christine Holstein (christine.holstein@usask.ca) or Linda Sparks (linda.sparks@usask.ca) with questions. As well, please continuing checking the USask updates page for more information and updates.

The WCVM has set up a specific email address for students, staff, faculty who have questions or concerns about the college’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Please email wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. All requests and concerns will be kept confidential.

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

 

QUESTIONS AND RESOURCES

Questions

Resources

 

Dear WCVM community:

Here is the latest update of the veterinary college’s efforts in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. If you have questions or concerns, please contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca. As well, visit the USask COVID-19 page to read the university’s latest updates and listing of resources for students, staff and faculty.

As we work together to address daily issues and challenges, keep in mind that your coworkers may be struggling with other worries and fears that are affecting their actions — or reactions. Reach out to individuals who may need help, or encourage them to ask for help, whether it’s from their immediate supervisors or the college.

We’ve set up an email address (wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca) for anyone who has questions or concerns about the college’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Emails go to WCVM human resources personnel and please be assured that all requests and concerns will be kept confidential.

Stay well,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean

 


EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 4)

Online classes continue for all students in Years 1 to 3, along with the work in preparing the classes’ final examinations for delivery on Blackboard. Student Services is checking in with clinical teams to ensure that all online rotations for fourth-year veterinary students are ready to go live on Monday, March 30.

 

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre continues to be only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment. VMC employees are following the new shift structure in the veterinary teaching hospital, with some adjustments to cover areas where additional help is needed. If anyone has concerns or questions about work shifts, please contact members of the VMC leadership team who are available to help.

Diane McDougall, VMC director of quality and operations, is offering on site training sessions for anyone in the VMC who wishes a quick refresher on the proper procedures for putting on and taking off personal protective equipment (PPE). Please contact Diane (diane.mcdougall@usask.ca) for more details, or if you have any questions or concerns about the use of PPE.

We encourage everyone to consider this refresher. While we are well trained and understand the prevention of exposure to infectious diseases, it's often very useful in situations like the one we find ourselves in now to refresh our skills in certain tasks. For example, physicians from Saskatoon's Royal University Hospital have been getting training in PPE at the USask Clinical Learning Resource Centre (CLRC).

The VMC pharmacy is upholding its policy of only filling or refilling prescriptions that are within seven days of the end of a current prescription and for only one month’s supply. As well, the VMC’s limit of one bag of pet food or one case of cans (per each type of food) per purchase is still in place (no exceptions for out-of-town clients or staff members).

 

RESEARCH

The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office has finished the list of critical, ongoing research projects as well as the list of research personnel who are considered critical or core to WCVM operations. Monitoring of essential infrastructure and equipment continues. 

The WCVM’s Animal Care Unit (ACU) is operating normally using its shift schedules with no disruptions to animal care and maintenance.

 

OPERATIONS

All university buildings remain closed, with only limited access to employees deemed as critical to core operations. Important exceptions are the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre, Prairie Diagnostic Services and the WCVM’s Animal Care Unit — all deemed as essential services for maintaining animal care, health and welfare in the province.

The university is still working on the plan for maintaining security on a closed campus, including the identification of employees that have access to campus buildings. We will keep you posted as the requirements become available. As well, please visit the USask updates website for the latest announcements from the university.

The gates for parking lots Q and V are now open 24 hours a day for all of the college’s core and critical staff.  

All ICT team members are working remotely; online support is available for all WCVM instructors and clinical teams. If onsite assistance is needed, please contact the ICT team (wcvm_itsupport@usask.ca).

If anyone identifies specific areas that require additional cleaning in the WCVM building, please email wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca so arrangements can be made with the custodial staff.

If WCVM staff and faculty have human resources-related questions or concerns, they are welcome to contact Christine Holstein (christine.holstein@usask.ca) or Linda Sparks (linda.sparks@usask.ca) with questions. As well, please continuing checking the USask updates page for more information and updates.

The WCVM has set up a specific email address for students, staff, faculty who have questions or concerns about the college’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Please email wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. All requests and concerns will be kept confidential.

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

 

QUESTIONS AND RESOURCES

Questions

Resources

Dear WCVM community:

I want to say thank you for all of your efforts these past couple weeks in figuring out our new normal. As an essential service, it’s important that we continue to meet our professional obligations and use our training and expertise to maintain a safe environment for ourselves and our clients.   

The steps you have already taken — working in shifts, maintaining personal space and hygiene, disinfecting areas regularly and avoiding face-to-face interactions with clients — are all important ways to prevent infection and slow the spread of COVID-19. Keep it up. You are an amazing and resilient team.

We should also be prepared for the potential scenario of having one of our team members on site test positive for COVID-19. This has already happened in U.S. veterinary schools, and the same scenario could happen here as well. In these cases, the colleges have responded quickly and effectively with complete trace outs so their teams can identify potential exposure to the positive case as well as extensive sanitation and disinfection processes. 

These strategies work. Each veterinary college that has faced a positive case of COVID-19 is back operating. We know what needs to be done, and we have the ability to follow through and take these important steps.

The last critical step is open and transparent communication. We all need to be aware and take appropriate steps together. We will continue to keep people informed of the current situation as we respond to whatever happens. As a team, we can manage it.

Despite all the changes in the past two weeks, we still see the gratitude from our clients who come to us in need. Your dedication and professionalism are so inspiring.

Thank you all.  
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 4)

The Student Services team met with faculty on March 24 and had a productive debriefing about remote delivery methods for courses and examinations. In addition to the ongoing courses, the team is preparing for the class years’ final examinations. Preparations are going well, and we’re grateful for the assistance of our administrative team in the Dean’s Office. If anyone needs additional clerical or administrative assistance, please contact Dr. Chris Clark or the Student Services Office.  

Meanwhile, clinical teams are doing an amazing job of developing a range of online rotations for our fourth-year students. The response has been incredible, and we are in good shape as we prepare to go live on Monday, March 30. Student Services team members are working with fourth-year students to finalize their schedules.

 

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre is only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment. The hospital has had some busy periods, and it's clear that our expertise is needed in the community. So far, clinical teams have been able to handle the number of emergency and urgent cases with some staffing adjustments. As everyone adjusts to the hospital’s new shift structure during the next few days, please reach out if you have concerns or questions. Members of the VMC leadership team are available to help.

The VMC pharmacy continues following the policy of only filling or refilling prescriptions that are within seven days of the end of a current prescription and for only one month’s supply. As well, the VMC’s limit of one bag of pet food or one case of cans (per each type of food) per purchase is still in place (no exceptions for out-of-town clients or staff members).

Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS)

Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS) is maintaining its operations and monitoring the number of diagnostic submissions. If needed, the PDS team will make further staffing adjustments to manage its demand. 

 

RESEARCH

The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office has completed the process of identifying critical, ongoing research projects that involve animals. The research team has also finished identifying essential infrastructure that must be maintained and monitored during the university’s closure. The Research Office has set up a monitoring schedule with two people assigned in each of the college’s four “zones.” The team members will cover monitoring duties in their respective zones week by week. Thanks to everyone who has stepped up to participate.

The Research Office is keeping in touch with WCVM graduate students and the 2020 summer research students. So far, the Office of the Vice-President Research (OVPR) is still considering options for the university’s summer research programs. Boehringer Ingelheim has cancelled the international portion of its Veterinary Scholars program, but no decision has been made for the North American component and the annual Veterinary Scholars Symposium, scheduled to take place in San Diego, Calif., from July 31 to August 2, 2020.

The WCVM’s Animal Care Unit (ACU) is operating normally using its shift schedules with no disruptions to animal care and maintenance.

 

OPERATIONS

All university buildings remain closed, with only limited access to employees deemed as critical to core operations. Important exceptions are the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre, Prairie Diagnostic Services and the WCVM’s Animal Care Unit — all deemed as essential services for maintaining animal care, health and welfare in the province.

The university is still working on the plan for maintaining security on a closed campus, including the identification of employees that have access to campus buildings. We will keep you posted as the requirements become available. As well, please visit the USask updates website for the latest announcements from the university.

Mail deliveries are still coming to the WCVM. The college’s General Office is receiving all college mail, and as time permits, members of the Dean’s Office team are distributing the mail to the college’s departments and units.

The college has learned that rabies titre testing is temporarily suspended due to coronavirus testing.

The ICT team continues to offer online support for instructors and clinical teams at the college. Due to the closure of the USask campus, ICT has suspended Panopto lecture capture capabilities in all WCVM lecture theatres. Remote teaching options are listed on the USask Teaching and Learning website.

The finance team is working on year-end for WCVM research and will soon be shifting to work on the college’s year-end activities. An email will be distributed to all departments this week with more information. The university is discussing alternative plans for annual inventory since it’s not possible for employees to complete a physical count of items in stock.

We will likely see an increase in the number of custodians as they are redirected to the WCVM for essential services.  They are being alerted to address places in use such as the rooms used for the VMC shift changes.

If WCVM staff and faculty have human resources-related questions or concerns, they are welcome to contact Christine Holstein (christine.holstein@usask.ca) or Linda Sparks (linda.sparks@usask.ca) with questions. As well, please continuing checking the USask updates page for more information and updates.

The WCVM has also set up a specific email address for students, staff, faculty who have questions or concerns about the college’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Please email wcvm.covid19questions@usask.ca. All requests and concerns will be reviewed by the college’s human resources personnel and kept confidential.

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

 

QUESTIONS AND RESOURCES

Questions

Resources

Dear WCVM community:

Here is today’s update of the veterinary college’s efforts in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. If you have questions or concerns, please contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca. As well, visit the USask COVID-19 page to read the university’s latest updates and listing of resources for students, staff and faculty.

As part of the university’s efforts to “flatten the curve,” all buildings on the USask campus are now closed with only limited access to employees deemed as critical to core operations. Services at the WCVM — the Veterinary Medical Centre, Prairie Diagnostic Services and the Animal Care Unit — continue to operate in limited capacities as our teams work to provide animal care and welfare, animal health and veterinary diagnostic services to the community.

As we work to provide essential services for animals in our care and assist in protecting our communities, let’s remember one other essential during this stressful time. Let’s be kind to each other.

Take care,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean



WORKING SAFELY

Animal care and welfare, animal health and veterinary diagnostic services are considered essential services on the University of Saskatchewan (USask) campus as well as in the province of Saskatchewan. As members of an essential service, employees whose work requires them to be on site are expected to work and fulfil their responsibilities as animal health professionals.

The following information is an important reminder for everyone to work safely. To help protect the health and safety of our staff and their families during the COVID-19 situation, it is essential that we continue to follow the public health recommendations for social distancing, self-monitoring and self-isolation.

Based on the latest information provided by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health, here’s a brief review of how each state should be interpreted in our workplace. Because the province’s response may change as the situation evolves, please continue checking the Government of Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 website.

  • Social distancing means avoiding close contact with others around you to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Keep a minimum distance of two metres from others in your workplace/community, sneeze into your arm or a tissue, avoid touching your face and wash your hands frequently.
  • Self-monitoring is a good idea at all times, but especially if you have been in contact with someone who has developed symptoms of respiratory illness (unrelated to COVID-19). You do not need to self-isolate unless it is confirmed that you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. But if you are uncertain, you should always seek advice from HealthLine 811.
  • Self-isolation means staying at home to prevent the spread of infection. You must self-isolate indoors and separate from others in the household if you have symptoms of fever and cough, even if they are mild. If you have recently returned from travel outside of Canada (including the U.S.), you must self-isolate for 14 days. If you are sick or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, you must self-isolate. This will help stop the spread of the virus so others don't get sick. The Saskatchewan Ministry of Health recommends you self-isolate for 14 days. Check the link for more information about what constitutes close contact with someone who is ill with COVID-19.

Frequent hand washing is one of the most important ways we can prevent the spread of coronavirus at the workplace and in our homes. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, dry your hands with paper towel and throw away after use. If you can’t wash your hands, use an alcohol-based sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Clean and disinfect common areas regularly, including areas that are often touched such as counters, tabletops and doorknobs.

The province’s Ministry of Health has additional recommendations on how we can all work together to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the community. If you have any questions, please contact your supervisor or email wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.


EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 4)

Students in Years 1 to 3 continue taking their courses remotely, and members of the Student Services team are working to address any issues or questions from students and instructors as they arise.  

The process of developing online options for delivering clinical rotations to the fourth-year students is going well. The WCVM’s anesthesia team has developed a way for the anesthesia OSCEs (objective structured clinical examinations) to be delivered remotely, so that’s great news for the Class of 2020.

The American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Education (COE) met this week and has developed guidelines to help accredited colleges as we respond to the COVID-19. We expect to receive those guidelines shortly.

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre is only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment. The VMC’s leadership team is working to address employees’ concerns with a new shift structure that’s based on three separate shift teams for emergency operations.

The VMC pharmacy continues following the policy of only filling or refilling prescriptions that are within seven days of the end of a current prescription and for only one month’s supply. As well, the VMC’s limit of one bag of pet food or one case of cans (per each type of food) per purchase is still in place (no exceptions for out-of-town clients or staff members).

Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS)

Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS) continues to monitor diagnostic submissions this week and will use the information to adjust staffing levels.

 

RESEARCH

The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office is wrapping up the process of identifying critical, ongoing research projects that involve animals. The Research Office has reviewed all submitted forms from researchers who are requesting to finish essential, in-progress animal research. In addition, the WCVM has submitted “special circumstances” forms to the USask Office of the Vice-President Research. Some faculty members are requesting an exception due to special circumstances and asking permission to continue their research projects. An update about these requests will follow. 

The WCVM Research Office is also identifying essential infrastructure that must be maintained during the university’s closure and has developed the associated work schedule.

While the COVID-19 situation has cancelled the college’s in-person graduate student poster competition (a March tradition), the Research Office is making final preparations for a virtual competition. Members of the WCVM’s research community have been very supportive of this event, so we look forward to celebrating our graduate students’ hard work online.

The Animal Care Unit (ACU) is operating relatively normally with no disruptions to animal care and maintenance.

 

OPERATIONS

As of 4:30 p.m. today (March 24), all university buildings are now closed with only limited access to employees deemed as critical to core operations. Important exceptions are the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre, Prairie Diagnostic Services and the Animal Care Unit.

The university is developing processes to maintain security on a closed campus, including the identification of employees that should have access to campus buildings. We will keep you posted as the requirements become available.

The college has submitted a list of core and critical personnel to USask, and if you have not been contacted as such, you are not allowed on campus until further notice. If you are uncertain or believe you should be included on that list, please contact Linda Sparks (linda.sparks@usask.ca) or Christine Holstein (christine.holstein@usask.ca).

To help slow down the spread of coronavirus in our community, it is imperative that all members of the USask community follow the university’s policy. If you are requesting access to campus buildings after March 24, you will need to contact USask Protective Services. Please note the university doesn’t guarantee that access will be granted for all requests. For more information, visit the USask updates website.

As reported yesterday, the WCVM’s loading dock has been identified as one of the university’s key drop-off sites. Until further notice, the following measures will be in place for shipments to the loading dock:

  • Orders should only be items that are critical for daily operations on campus. All other items must be delivered to your home.
  • Please contact Monique Burmester (monique.burmester@usask.ca) or Karen Gesy (karen.gesy@usask.ca) with your order’s details.
  • Staff will only contact individuals who are receiving deliverables of perishable items (assuming contact information has been provided). You must be responsible for tracking all other deliveries (including delivery time) as the loading dock staff will not contact you. Please track your order’s progress closely.
  • Packages will be grouped as much as possible and placed within the loading dock area. However, please note that they may not be in the usual pick up spot for your department/unit.
  • When picking up your order, please sign the applicable item line in the tracking binder. 
  • If your delivery comes in on a pallet, it is your responsibility to move the pallet outside.
  • Packages remaining at the end of the day will remain in the open loading dock area. They will not be locked in the receiving area.
  • Loading dock staff members are not responsible for missing orders or packages. 
  • When you pick up a package, please maintain social distancing of at least two metres.

For any employees who are considered core and critical personnel, the university’s Y parking lot is temporarily free and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to accommodate essential staff.

If WCVM staff and faculty have human resources-related questions or concerns, they are welcome to contact Christine Holstein (christine.holstein@usask.ca) or Linda Sparks (linda.sparks@usask.ca) with questions. As well, please check the USask updates page for more information and updates.

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

 

QUESTIONS AND RESOURCES

Questions

Resources

Dear WCVM community:

Here is today’s update of the veterinary college’s efforts in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. If you have questions or concerns, please contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca. As well, visit the USask COVID-19 page to read the university’s latest updates and listing of resources for students, staff and faculty.

As announced by the University of Saskatchewan (USask) on March 22, the university campus will be closed to students, faculty and staff at the end of the day on Tuesday, March 24. Only employees and students who have been identified in providing core and critical services to colleges and units will be allowed on campus.

So far, all of the WCVM’s plans to keep the college’s Veterinary Medical Centre open for emergencies, urgent care and cases already under treatment continue as planned. These updates serve to keep you in touch with the challenges and evolving issues addressed by the leadership team as we all work our way through the many obstacles and unexpected issues that arise because of the global pandemic.

Take care,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 3)

The Student Services team addressed some issues in exam formats and online delivery earlier today. To avoid future anxiety for students and instructors, the team will discuss these problems and how to solve them during the faculty debriefing meeting on March 24. 

Now that USask has officially cancelled its Spring 2020 Convocation, the Student Services team is working with student representatives to come up with an alternative celebration plan for the Class of 2020.

DVM students (Year 4)

The Student Services team is evaluating the fourth-year students’ rotation records in relation to earlier core requirements used by the Class of 2015, and then determining what rotations each student must complete before graduation. The WCVM’s clinical team continue working on online options for delivering clinical rotations — a challenging process that will continue throughout this week while rotations are suspended.

Most fourth-year students are using the next few days to pack up and return to their home communities. As well, some of the senior students are moving on to their new job locations in anticipation of graduation.


CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre is only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment. The VMC’s leadership team continues setting up three separate shift teams for emergency operations. This more flexible shift structure will allow clinical services in the teaching hospital to continue 24 hours a day even if one or more individuals become ill. The team is working to address safety concerns associated with after-hours work as well as a process for supporting employees with specific child care needs.

We realize that this shift structure dramatically changes the way people work at the VMC, but it is a necessary tactic so the veterinary teaching hospital can continue providing emergency care for animals in the community and the region. The VMC leadership team appreciates people’s support of this new development — we have a very strong group of people who are all willing to do their part to overcome this series of hurdles.

The VMC pharmacy continues following the policy of only filling or refilling prescriptions that are within seven days of the end of a current prescription and for only one month’s supply. As well, the VMC’s limit of one bag of pet food or one case of cans (per each type of food) per purchase is still in place (no exceptions for out-of-town clients or staff members).

Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS)

Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS), which serves as the province’s veterinary laboratory, is integrated in the WCVM building and plays an instrumental role in providing diagnostic services for the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre as well as diagnostic records and testing for researchers conducting animal health research. PDS also serves the veterinary community throughout Saskatchewan and Western Canada, and as an essential service for veterinarians/animal health, the diagnostic laboratory will continue to operate with a reduced staff.

Since the COVID-19 situation ramped up in Saskatchewan about 10 days ago, the PDS team has noticed a decrease in the number of diagnostic submissions and requests from small animal and mixed animal practices. The PDS leadership team has also contacted some of its larger clients in the large animal and livestock sector to gauge how their operations are affected by the pandemic. More information about the impact of the pandemic on diagnostic testing will be available later this week.



RESEARCH

Animal Care Unit (ACU)

Today, the Animal Care Unit (ACU) team began using their new shift structure that splits employees in two separate groups. This arrangement will allow the unit to continue operating even if illness among one group forces one shift to self-isolate. To help the team, the ACU director has asked a couple of researchers to assist with caring for animals (including animals involved in their own research) that are housed in the ACU.

The ACU team is also meeting with representatives of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) to see if they can assist in providing additional cages in support of the organization’s COVID-19 research efforts.

Research and Graduate Studies

As directed by the USask Office of the Vice-President Research (VPR) on March 19, 2020, the WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office is helping the college’s research teams to suspend most on-campus and field research, scholarly work, and creative activities.

For research involving animals, the exceptions are COVID-19 research, field research in which the animals are not housed in on-campus animal facilities, or research involving animals that are also used for agricultural production purposes. The university’s Animal Care Unit continues to support ongoing animal research projects, but researchers are encouraged to conclude these projects sooner rather than later.

Earlier today, members of the WCVM’s executive committee raised a question about research team members’ access to the college building once the USask campus is closed at the end of the day on March 24. We have been gathering the names of faculty, staff and graduate students who will need to be in the building to finish projects that are deemed critical. This definition includes projects involving animals for which a sudden shutdown would cause a welfare concern or a loss of animals. Critical projects might also include studies with cell cultures that would die and be lost, or the loss of significant data that has been collected over a long period of time. 

While we understand that the term critical projects is challenging to define, the description does not include projects that will experience delays in their progress. Faculty should not encourage or simply allow graduate students to enter the building and work unless it is on a project that has been reviewed by the college and accepted as critical and exempt from the university’s closure. If you have not done so, please forward all research projects that require completion during the university closure to Dr. Liz Snead, the WCVM’s associate dean (research), for our review. 

We realize that this situation will have an impact on graduate students' progress in their programs, and it may affect some students more than others. The university and the college are aware of these issues, and we are working on ways to best support our graduate students and faculty. The situation is still evolving, but it is important that the college remains clear and consistent on applying the university policies. 

Some projects may not be critical but may require a short, finite time to shut down. This description aligns with the university’s policy, but we still need to review these projects and be aware of who is in the building.  

The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies team is also working with research teams to develop a list of core research infrastructure and equipment — such as liquid nitrogen tanks, freezers and coolers — that need to be monitored and maintained regularly. Once the inventory is finalized, individuals will be assigned to monitor all of this equipment across the college and its facilities.

The VMC materials management unit has requested that WCVM researchers refrain from making large orders of medical supplies and other items so the hospital can avoid shortages of essential items used in health care.

Holding virtual defences using meeting/presentation software systems will become the new norm for researchers on campus. The WCVM’s Research and Graduate Office is also investigating the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 situation on graduate students’ stipends if individuals’ programs must be delayed. So far, the WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office is still waiting on the university’s final decision about summer research student programs.

 

OPERATIONS

The WCVM’s operations team continues to make final plans in anticipation of the USask’s closure, effective at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24. All finance and ICT teams are working remotely, and final steps are being done to finalize the college’s list of core and critical personnel.

As reported on March 20, veterinarians, registered veterinary technologists and other hospital staff required to provide service are considered members of an essential service (animal health care), along with technical staff members who are responsible for the care of animals. Other critical staff include technicians in Prairie Diagnostic Services as well as core technical staff in the college’s departments.

For any employees who are considered core and critical personnel, the university’s Y parking lot is temporarily free and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to accommodate essential staff.

Since the WCVM’s loading dock has been identified as one of the university’s key drop-off sites, the operations team is investigating whether certain schedules must be followed and whether other colleges/units will share in monitoring the area. 

As a follow up to the USask’s release of employee-focused information last week, WCVM staff and faculty are welcome to contact members of our human resources team (Christine Holstein, christine.holstein@usask.ca; and Linda Sparks, linda.sparks@usask.ca) with your questions. As well, please continuing checking the USask updates page for more information and updates.

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

 

QUESTIONS AND RESOURCES

Questions

Resources

Dear WCVM community:

Here is the latest update of the veterinary college’s efforts in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
If you have questions or concerns, please contact 
wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca. As well, visit the USask COVID-19 page to read the university’s latest updates and listing of resources for students, staff and faculty.

So much has changed in a week’s time. The entire country’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve have completely altered our lives at home, at work and at school. With so much uncertainty swirling around us, it’s understandable why people are anxious, stressed and fearful of the future. I know this is a tough time for everyone.

Our situation is far from ideal, but what continues to amaze me are the stories about individuals and teams whose creative solutions have helped us overcome obstacles and fix hiccups along the way. The anecdotes about coworkers supporting coworkers as they deal with sick kids and family members. The reports of celebratory baked goods (distributed following biosecurity measures) in appreciation of coworkers’ hard work. Your “we got this” attitude has allowed us to continue doing our jobs, even when all sense of normalcy has temporarily disappeared.  

I don’t know what challenges we will face next week or the week after that, but I do know that we’re a resilient bunch, and we will get through this together.

Thanks, everyone. 

Take care,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean

 

EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 3)

Online classes continue for Years 1 to 3. WCVM Student Services is working with faculty members to make some technical adjustments based on students’ initial feedback, and the team continues to rely on regular communications with class presidents to keep abreast of potential issues and concerns.

This week’s experience with online exams will help the team prepare for the term’s final examinations, and the Student Services team plans to have a debriefing session with faculty on Monday, March 23.

DVM students (Year 4)

Because of the challenging circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the WCVM has decided to suspend all in-person clinical rotation teaching at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. This decision, which was relayed to members of the Class of 2020 earlier today, will take effect at
8 a.m. on Monday, March 23.

To help meet our goal of moving the remaining clinical rotations to online delivery, no clinical rotations will take place for one week (March 23 to 27) at the VMC. This one-week hiatus from clinical teaching will give our academic teams some time to form our plans and compile the materials we need for online learning. We realize that this will be a challenging process for everyone, but we are faced with a real crisis, and we are not alone within our profession. The crucial piece to consider is that we must ensure that our students demonstrate clinical competency in key areas — as outlined by the Council on Education (COE). 

Student Services encourages faculty to develop online rotations that are flexible regarding the number of students and completion. The team is also asking faculty to develop online methods for administering OSCEs (when necessary) and interacting with students so evaluations for all remaining internal clinical rotations can be completed. 

Because of the extraordinary situation, University Council has allowed the WCVM to adjust its syllabi and revert to the core requirements used for the Class of 2015. Students will be required to complete anesthesia, diagnostic pathology, medical imaging, one surgery (large or small animal) and one medicine (large or small animal). As the delivery of core rotations will be adjusted, the anesthesia and small animal medicine rotations will shift from four weeks to two weeks in length. Since all fourth-year OSCEs are requirements of the DVM program, they must be completed before graduation.

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

As announced on March 19, the VMC is only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment. The VMC’s leadership team is working with clinical services to outline the types of cases that their teams can manage, and they’re also working to set up separate shift teams for emergency operations that would allow services to continue even if one or more individuals become ill.

The VMC also continues to follow a stringent admission/discharge protocol for minimizing contact between clients and members of the clinical team and cleaning/disinfection protocols to prevent the spread of infection. As an added measure, the VMC is no longer accepting cash; all payments must be done by credit or debit.

Throughout the week, all members of the VMC’s client services team pitched in and responded to a rapidly-changing situation for client reception as well as for patient admissions and discharges. Team members took things in stride, and we greatly appreciate all of their efforts.

The VMC pharmacy is extremely busy filling prescriptions for VMC patients as well as for patients/clients outside of the veterinary teaching hospital. To prevent potential shortages of medication, the VMC pharmacy has put new policies in place. As of March 20, the hospital’s pharmacy will only fill or refill prescriptions or supplies that are within seven days of the end of a current prescription or supply. As well, the pharmacy will only provide up to one month’s supply of prescription medications. 

In the VMC’s materials management unit, limited vendor supplies have compelled the VMC team to pass on the same quantity restrictions for clients, researchers and others. As reported yesterday, the VMC is limiting pet food purchases to one bag or one case of cans (per each type of food) per purchase, with no exceptions for out-of-town clients or staff members. The hospital is enforcing this policy to ensure that we continue to have a sufficient supply of pet food — particularly special diet food — for all animal owners. Based on information from our supplier, the limitations in supply aren't signifying a future shortage of pet food. Instead, a sudden change in demand has caused a lag in the supply chain across Western Canada.

 

RESEARCH

Animal Care Unit (ACU)

On their own initiative, the Animal Care Unit (ACU) team members have split up in two separate groups and organized four 10-hour shifts per group. This arrangement will allow the unit to continue operating even if illness among one group forces one shift to self-isolate. ACU director Monique Burmester remains working on site, but she is distancing herself from both groups so she can continue trouble shooting and assisting wherever needed.

Research and Graduate Studies

USask Vice-President Research Karen Chad released an update to all researchers on campus about research operations and research animals. In response to the COVID-19 situation, USask researchers must avoid starting new research projects and scale down current studies and other activities when possible. Non-critical labs will begin closing as soon as possible, and researchers must prepare contingency plans for securing materials and contacting all lab staff in case their lab access is restricted. 

Where there is time-sensitive research that must continue, USask is looking to unit leaders and researchers to make these determinations, while asking that contingency plans be in place in case research activity can not be continued.

No new research projects involving animals can begin, but this policy does not include COVID-19 research, field research in which the animals are not housed in on-campus animal facilities, or research involving animals that are also used for agricultural production purposes. Ongoing animal research projects will continue to be supported by the university’s animal care and facilities staff. However, where possible, researchers may wish to conclude those projects and rely on existing data, given the uncertainty of the pandemic situation.

The OVPR has been working to ensure that appropriate standards for animal care will be maintained throughout any disruption. If research staff responsible for animal care are no longer able to perform those duties, please contact facility staff or Dr. Kurtis Swekla, the acting university veterinarian, so alternative arrangements can be made to maintain animal welfare.

In terms of research funding, federal Tri-Council funding agencies (CIHRNSERC and SSHRC) recognize that the current situation may affect researchers’ work, their ability to conduct and review research, and their ability to prepare and submit publications or grant applications. Please consult the agencies’ websites for the latest updates and sign up for the relevant USask research listserv to receive timely updates.

As for summer student assistantships and internships, USask is working with funding agencies and other partners to develop options for students to participate in these opportunities.

 

OPERATIONS

As reported yesterday, USask is implementing a working remotely policy with the goal of having that transition completed for non-core USask employees by Monday, March 23 (visit the USask updates page for more details). To meet the requirements of that policy, the college’s departments and units are finalizing their lists of critical activities and personnel.

During this state of emergency in Saskatchewan, veterinarians and registered veterinary technologists are considered members of an essential service (animal health care), along with technical staff members who are responsible for the care of animals.

While all WCVM ICT team members are working remotely, they continue to support WCVM faculty and staff as well as the VMC’s VetNet system with all technical needs. The WCVM operations is working with the USask custodial management team to ensure that custodians’ efforts are focused on priority areas in the college and veterinary teaching hospital where there’s a heightened need for more frequent cleaning and sanitation during the current situation.

USask released more employee information about pay and benefits on March 19. As expected in such a complex scenario, there are still many questions to answer and individual situations to interpret. If you have any questions, please contact members of our human resources team (Christine Holstein, christine.holstein@usask.ca; and Linda Sparks, linda.sparks@usask.ca) with your questions. They’re here to help you, so please rely on their expertise and access to additional resources for informed support. As well, please continuing checking the USask updates page for more information that is relevant to staff and faculty.

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

 

QUESTIONS AND RESOURCES

Questions

Resources

Dear WCVM community:

Here is the latest update of the veterinary college’s efforts in response to the COVID-19 situation. If you have questions or concerns, please contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca. As well, visit the USask COVID-19 page to read the university’s latest updates and listing of resources for students, staff and faculty.

The Government of Saskatchewan’s decision to declare a provincial state of emergency will have an impact on the level of activities that will be allowed on campus. Please read the latest USask update for more information about the university’s working remotely policy.

Thanks, everyone. Stay on top of things and stay well. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly with questions, concerns or suggestions. Remember, we are a team and we're all in this together.

Take care,
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


 

EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 3)

Years 1 to 3 resumed their classes today using remote, online tools. The college’s first remote examination (medical imaging) was also completed this morning with minimal issues — thanks to some trouble shooting and “mock exam” testing done by Dr. Kim Tryon, who has become the WCVM’s Blackboard guru.

By deferring the OSCEs (objective structured clinical exams), cancelling the odd mid-term examination and merging some exams, the Student Services team has worked with faculty to reduce the total number of exams that must be given by the end of the academic year from 26 to 21 (final number may change). We sincerely thank everyone for their efforts as we work our way through the process.  

Dr. Chris Clark is working to modify the core business course with materials developed by veterinary business consultant John Tait, who has graciously allowed the WCVM online access to the resources.

DVM students (Year 4)

The Student Services team is working with clinicians to investigate modifications of clinical rotations — such as surgery — so one week of the rotation is done in the clinic while the second week is done remotely. That would allow the WCVM to have fewer fourth-year veterinary students working in the VMC and reduce the number of people on site.

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

On its website and through WCVM’s social media channels, the VMC announced that it is only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment. These changes in the veterinary teaching hospital allow us to protect the health and safety of staff, students and clients while maintaining high-quality care for our patients.

The VMC also continues to follow a stringent admission/discharge protocol for minimizing contact between clients and members of the clinical team as well as cleaning/disinfection protocols to prevent the spread of infection. The VMC team asks for everyone’s help in supporting these critical steps. If anyone has questions about these protocols, please contact Falyn Jarvis, the VMC team lead for client services (falyn.jarvis@usask.ca).

To avoid issues, the VMC is now limiting pet food purchases: clients may only purchase one bag or case (per type) of pet food during each visit. As well, clients must give 24 hours' notice for regular pick up of pet food. For special pet food orders, clients must order well in advance (10 to 14 days) before pick up. 

RESEARCH

Research operations at the Animal Care Unit (ACU) continue as usual with minimal interruption to research studies. The ACU is working with the university’s waste management group to ensure that their work continues — a necessary resource for researchers using the unit’s Level 2 facilities. The ACU also has two months’ supply of feed and bedding for animals in their care, so that concern is taken care of.

So far, no campus-wide decision has been made about summer research programs. The WCVM research team has been in touch with clinical interns and residents who are scheduled to begin their programs this summer. While final decisions haven’t been made, administrators continue to complete immigration paperwork associated with these internships and residencies in case programs can go ahead.

OPERATIONS

With the Government of Saskatchewan declaring a provincial State of Emergency to address the COVID-19 pandemic, USask is implementing a working remotely policy while ensuring the core functions of the university remain operating. Based on the policy, all non-core USask employees still working on campus will make the transition to work remotely by Monday, March 23. This goal aligns with the government’s emergency declaration, while also allowing supervisors some time to plan. As part of that process, all colleges are developing their lists of critical activities and personnel. Animal care, animal health and diagnostics continue to be critical services to campus (and society). Visit the USask updates page for more details.

The March 19 launch of online courses and exams went well for the WCVM ICT team, which continues to support WCVM faculty and staff with their technical needs. Most employees working in operations and finance are now working remotely.

The college’s human resources team attends daily USask meetings and receives updates on human resources-related issues and concerns. The university is planning to release more information this week that will help to answer employees’ questions. Please visit the USask updates page for more information that is relevant to staff and faculty.

As additional resources for questions about self-monitoring, self-isolations and dispelling myths about COVID-19, here are links to several excellent resources produced by government health agencies in Canada and the U.S.:

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

Questions?  

Dear WCVM community:

Here is our latest update of the veterinary college’s efforts in response to the COVID-19 situation. If you have questions or concerns, please contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca. As well, visit the USask COVID-19 page to read the university’s latest updates and listing of resources for students, staff and faculty.

I want to thank everyone for their hard work and their willingness to be responsive and nimble as the situation evolves. I’m especially grateful for your ability to come together as a team in these unprecedented times. Thank you! We can make it if we continue to work together. 

We know that people throughout the college have questions and concerns. Some of our jobs' tasks simply can’t be done from home. But we are prepared, and we are trained to manage infectious disease every day. There are good safety protocols in place, and I urge everyone to continue following these preventive measures. We will continue to plan for whatever may come and keep everyone informed as new information develops.

Take care, everyone.
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean



EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 3)

Student Services is making the final preparations for tomorrow (March 19) when all USask classes will resume remotely. The college’s first remote examination is also scheduled for Thursday morning. Team members have been in regular contact with students to answer their questions and to help make alternative arrangements in exceptional circumstances. We appreciate that this is a stressful time, but I have a great deal of faith in our amazing students, faculty and academic team as they face this new “norm” for education delivery.

Student Services is working to finalize an alternative content source for the college’s core business course since the original instructor is now immersed in Ontario’s COVID-19 response. The team is also helping a group of third-year students shift from two elective courses that were cancelled to other available options for electives.

DVM students (Year 4)

The Student Services team continues to work toward the goal of having all fourth-year students’ rotations rescheduled by Monday, March 23. While there is still much to be done, there’s some positive news. Thanks to Dr. Debbie DeRantere's efforts, nearly all fourth-year students (the exception being a few students who are off campus) should have their surgery OSCEs completed by the end of this week.

Another encouraging highlight is a new online emergency and critical care experience, which was developed by Dr. Jennifer Loewen, that can be operated as a one- or two-week elective rotation. In situations where we can’t place certain students in a rotation, this online rotation will give our Student Services team some flexibility as they help senior students complete the required number of rotation weeks. Great efforts, everyone!

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) continues to provide critical veterinary care for the community and to support the essential training of our fourth-year veterinary students so they can complete their veterinary programs. While caseloads are reduced in most clinical services, the veterinary teaching hospital’s small animal emergency and critical care service is extremely busy. The VMC leadership team is in close contact with the clinical team, and we are taking a day-by-day approach in evaluating the VMC’s operations and their scale. We continue planning for a variety of potential scenarios.

It’s important that we continue to provide clinical services for as long as we possibly can. The VMC reception team members continue to follow strict, preventive protocols for minimizing contact between clients and the clinical team. These patient admission/discharge protocols have been shared with all WCVM employees, and the VMC team asks for everyone’s help in supporting these critical steps. If anyone has questions about these protocols, please contact Falyn Jarvis, the VMC team lead for client services (falyn.jarvis@usask.ca).

The VMC pharmacy has experienced a higher number of prescriptions requesting medication to cover longer terms. So far the VMC is able to fill these prescriptions and is following the same supply guidelines as outlined by our medical supplier.  

 

RESEARCH

Research operations at the Animal Care Unit (ACU) are continuing as usual with minimal interruption to research studies. So far, the impact of the COVID-19 situation on research at USask and at the veterinary college has not been as immediate as it has been on the university’s academic programs. The nature of research where researchers are often working with only a few people makes it easier for research teams to practise social distancing in labs and offices. However, we stress that all researchers and their team members must be vigilant about avoiding group activities and practising good hand hygiene and disinfection measures in their labs and any shared office spaces.

At this point, USask has not made any campus-wide decision about plans for the university’s summer research programs. The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office has contacted all incoming summer research students to determine whether they wish to withdraw from the program because of health concerns. The WCVM has also contacted organizers of the Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Scholars program to ask about plans for the BI Veterinary Scholars program and the Veterinary Scholars Symposium, which is scheduled to take place at Tufts University from July 25-28, 2020. 

 

OPERATIONS

The March 19 launch of online courses and exams has been a key focus for the WCVM ICT team, and so far, everything has been progressing well. Team members have been assisting faculty with any technical questions, and what’s been heartening to witness is the collegiality between instructors as they help each other navigate new tools for delivering their course materials.

While we realize that potential problems may crop up, we have great respect for our college’s ICT team and their troubleshooting abilities. ICT team members have also been responding to questions and requests from employees who are working remotely, and so far, the team has been able to juggle their responsibilities while staggering work times in their shared office space.

Since the WCVM loading dock's hours have been reduced, we are co-ordinating incoming medical shipments with VMC representatives. 

The operations team is developing a schedule for lecture theatres and classrooms that the college’s custodial staff can use to co-ordinate and focus their cleaning efforts. Because so many employees are working remotely, we’re also compiling a list of occupied offices and work areas so custodians can streamline their cleaning activities. This information is doubly useful for us as we work to develop alternative emergency response plans in case of an incident at the college. As well, COVID-19 prevention posters have been posted in all of the WCVM’s washrooms and other public areas.

The college’s human resources team attends daily USask meetings and receives updates on human resources-related issues and concerns. The university is planning to release more information this week that will help to answer employees’ questions. Please visit the USask updates page for more information that is relevant to staff and faculty.

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

Questions?  

Dear WCVM community:

Here is an update of the veterinary college’s efforts in response to the COVID-19 situation. If you have questions or concerns, please contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.caAs well, visit the USask COVID-19 page to read the university’s latest update (posted earlier today).

During this uncertain time, the WCVM realizes that our employees have many concerns and pressures to deal with in addition to their responsibilities at work. I want to assure you that the WCVM’s leadership team recognizes the challenges you are facing, and we support the vital work that you do. Our college’s operations and finance team members are also working hard to keep things running smoothly and to ensure that there are no disruptions to the college’s payroll and other financial services.

Whether your work base is still at the college or at home, we need to work together to overcome the challenges we will face in the coming weeks.

Be well, everyone!
Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 3)

The WCVM is on track to having all DVM classes (Years 1 to 3) ready for remote course delivery beginning on March 19. The college has permitted all Year 1 students to return home for the remainder of the term, and depending on their course demands, many other students in Years 2 and 3 have also returned home. With assistance from WCVM staff, faculty members are uploading final examinations to the university’s Blackboard system.

To ensure that all members of Years 1, 2 and 3 can advance to the next year, the WCVM team is working on plans to offer specific OSCEs (objective structured clinical exams) and skills labs sometime in the summer months before the next academic year begins. We are working on options for the fourth-year externships and rotations scheduled during the spring and summer months. Normally students must pass their OSCEs first. We will need to find an approved option for students to provisionally advance to fourth year for externships and summer rotations, and then complete the OSCEs later. The college’s Student Services team is working with class presidents to ensure that all students are informed of updates as they become available.

DVM students (Year 4)

The WCVM is making progress in the goal toward finding ways to assist fourth-year students in completing their core rotations at the Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC). Both the small animal medicine and anesthesia teams are working to scale back their longer core rotations from four weeks to three weeks so they can accommodate as many students as possible in limited time. Surgery is working collaboratively to accommodate students and the shift in rotation schedules. 

The Student Services group is working on rescheduling fourth-year students in available rotations, and the aim is to have everyone’s schedules adjusted for Monday, Mar. 23. It is critical to continue clinical services while we can. It’s a complex process, but we’re making headway. It’s going to take teamwork. We are so appreciative and thank everyone for pitching in to make this happen. 

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) continues to operate with limited clinical services and is following preventive protocols to minimize contact between clients and the clinical team. To avoid issues, the VMC is urging animal owners and referring veterinarians to call in advance before bringing or sending animals to the veterinary teaching hospital. 

It is critical that we maintain clinical services while we can for our fourth-year students to complete the requirements for their DVM program. We also provide critical services to the community. We must work together as a team across the hospital to make this happen. While keeping safety first, I know we can do it.

Some VMC administration members are working remotely and/or restricting time spent on site for specific duties. In situations where employees must be on site, clinical team members should continue taking precautions to distance themselves from their coworkers and follow strict hygiene practices. As a precaution, the hospital’s materials management unit is also taking measures to limit contact with clinical teams in the high-traffic stores area.

RESEARCH

Research operations at the Animal Care Unit (ACU) are continuing as usual with minimal interruption to research studies, and the university’s facilities management has confirmed that all cleaning and support services will continue. The support provided by the research labs has been important.

The WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office has directed graduate students to work from home as much as possible, use online options to work on courses, and practise social distancing measures if they must work in the shared graduate student office spaces.

OPERATIONS

The college’s ICT team continues to assist WCVM faculty with lecture capture preparations in advance of remote course delivery on Mar. 19. As much as possible, the university-wide focus has been on delivering course work with minimal use of bandwidth since so many people will be relying on the online services. To supplement the coursework, some faculty members are looking at the option of offering text-based interaction so students can ask questions or clarify points during the online lectures.  

Since shared offices make social distancing difficult, ICT team members are working in staggered shifts to minimize contact with each other while still providing services for instructors as well as employees who need assistance to set up their remote work stations. The college’s finance team members are also working separately to avoid contact, with most work being done remotely.  

This week’s abrupt change in how people do their regular jobs on campus is bound to cause questions, and it’s natural for people to be uncertain about expectations and requirements while they work remotely. USask has also posted more staff-related information and resources on line, so please review this section. If you still have questions, please talk to your supervisor or contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca.

The WCVM’s human resources team continues to meet with USask representatives to discuss important questions and concerns associated with staff members working remotely, requesting employees to cover other tasks outside of their usual areas, employee safety in case of a fire or an emergency, and other pressing issues. More information will be available this week.

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

As we work through this stressful time, please feel free to contact Erin Wasson, the WCVM’s veterinary social worker, with your questions or concerns. USask has also posted links to resources online, along with the following sources that support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

POSTPONEMENTS AND CANCELLATIONS

As mandated by USask, the WCVM has postponed or cancelled the following events to help protect the campus community:

  • WCVM “State of the College” presentation (March 19) — postponed
  • Fourth-year reception (April 2) — cancelled
  • Ultrasonography and embryo transfer workshops (May 4-9) — cancelled

Questions?  

Dear WCVM community,

To ensure that everyone keeps informed of the WCVM's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will distribute regular email updates to all students and employees in the veterinary college. The WCVM Dean's group and other team members have worked on response measures that will enable us to focus on four key priorities over the coming days and weeks: 

  • first and foremost, manage the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and community
  • seek out creative ways that will allow the WCVM Class of 2020 to graduate
  • use innovative alternatives that will enable Years 1 to 3 to advance to the next academic year
  • provide the necessary clinical services that meet the public's needs

We recognize that this is a stressful time for everyone as we work to implement preventive measures and minimize the spread of the coronavirus in our communities and across the country. Take care of your health and the health of your families, be supportive of each other, and be prepared for change as we face these challenging times together.     

Doug Freeman, WCVM Dean


EDUCATION

DVM students (Years 1 to 3)

WCVM faculty and staff are working to ensure that all classes in the DVM program (Years 1 to 3) will be ready for remote delivery beginning on Thursday morning, March 19. In addition to lectures and course materials, the WCVM team is arranging for all remaining examinations (including final examinations) to be given through online systems. All labs are cancelled unless alternative arrangements can be made between the college and the university. The college’s Student Services team is keeping students informed of updates as they become available.

DVM students (Year 4)

The WCVM is working to assist as many fourth-year students as possible in completing their final core rotations at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre over the next few weeks. The Student Services team is rearranging students’ schedules so they can enter core rotations earlier. This process may mean students complete a portion of an elective rotation this week before shifting to a core rotation as spots open. Student Services and faculty members are also exploring the option of shortening certain core rotations from four weeks to three weeks.

For senior students who only have elective rotations left to complete, the WCVM is investigating potential externship opportunities in the students’ home communities. This option would allow them to return home early and still fulfil academic requirements outlined by the university and the Council on Education (COE). While these revisions progress, specialty services teams are responding with creative ways for students to complete their elective rotations. Field service, wellness, elective surgery and large animal medicine are opting for “remote rounds” and other social distancing tactics.

 

CLINICAL SERVICES

Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)

Our goal is to continue to support the needs of our clients and patients. To do so, we are initiating strict protocols to maintain a safe environment. These protocols include ways to minimize employees' and students' contact with animal owners. As part of the process, the VMC's reception team members are calling clients in advance of appointments. If it’s an emergent case and the owner has recently travelled or is showing signs of respiratory illness, the VMC team is asking about the option of another person bringing in the animal.

In response to staff shortages in some units, the VMC will limit those clinical services. If necessary, the VMC will be prepared to move to offering emergency services only — a decision that many veterinary teaching hospitals have already made because of the rapidly-changing situation across North America. 
 

RESEARCH

Animal Care Unit

Research operations are continuing as usual with minimal interruption to research studies. If a significant number of ACU staff members must stay home, researchers have agreed to assist with the feeding and care of animals participating in their studies.

Graduate students

Graduate students continue to work on coursework and projects. As a preventive measure, the WCVM Research and Graduate Studies Office has cancelled this year’s in-person Graduate Student Poster Day on Mar. 26, along with the awards ceremony on Mar. 27. As an alternative, the research team is working on details to offer a digital research poster competition in the coming weeks.  

 

OPERATIONS

The WCVM’s ICT team are working hard to assist instructors in meeting the university’s deadline of Mar. 19 for remote access of classes. In the interim, ICT is asking faculty and staff to use “low-tech” options for communicating to decrease bandwidth use. Once the academic requirements are met, ICT will help other staff prepare for working remotely as a means of minimizing social contact.

As much as possible, the WCVM is working to have people work at home so they can practise social distancing and meet other responsibilities such as caring for children and other family members. In cases where people must be at the college to complete their job’s responsibilities, the WCVM may rotate staff so people are working alone or in small groups during their work time.  

Many questions are left to be answered, and the WCVM human resources team hopes to have more information to share over the next few days. The college’s key concern is for the health of WCVM employees and their families — other details can be worked out over time.
 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

WCVM veterinary social worker Erin Wasson continues to be available through remote access. Extraordinary circumstances such as the COVID-19 situation may be distressing for students, veterinary service providers, staff and their families. Sharing and accessing pandemic-related information has an impact on self-protective boundaries. The nature in which information is shared can trigger anxiety and other responses. Knowing this, please use the links below to support good mental health as well as the physical health of our WCVM community. 

Questions?  

  • Visit the WCVM home page for links to resources — including a WCVM-focused COVID-19 response page
  • Visit usask.ca/updates for more details about the USask response to COVID-19 and to access other resources
  • Send questions to wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca

The University of Saskatchewan (USask) updated information on its COVID-19 information page (usask.ca/updates) on Mar. 15, 2020. The update included information about working remotely and self-isolation recommendations.

Because the situation is changing rapidly, the WCVM leadership team members are providing supplementary information to the university’s overall message. We also wish to reassure our faculty and staff that the college supports their individual choices regarding personal health as well as the health of their families.

Travellers and self-isolation

  • Employees and students returning from international travel (including the U.S.): please self-isolate and do not come to campus for 14 calendar days after your return from travel. Please continue to monitor your health and follow the guidelines and recommendations of the province and the federal government, as these guidelines are updated frequently in response to the changing situation. 
  • Employees and students returning from travel within Canada: please follow recommendations relating to your recent travel. If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, please self-isolate. Continue to monitor your health and follow the guidelines and recommendations of the province and the federal government.

Working remotely

  • Faculty and staff: if you have not recently returned from international travel and have no symptoms of illness, please come to work on Monday, March 16, so we can determine what arrangements need to be made for performing your job’s activities remotely (where it’s feasible). We will assist staff in making the transition to working remotely as ICT services become available.
  • If you are unable to attend work on Monday, Mar. 16, please contact your immediate supervisor.
  • Please be assured that the WCVM’s priority is the health of our staff, their families and our community. We will manage issues about leave time to support our staff in making the appropriate decisions for their well-being.

While you are at work, we ask you to please follow the government’s recommendations for social distancing as we work together to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As much as possible, refrain from gathering in groups and please use the phone or online tools to communicate with your coworkers.

Thank you for your patience and co-operation as we make this transition in a rapidly-changing situation. If you have questions or concerns, please contact wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca or speak to your supervisor.

Many questions have come up about COVID-19 and how the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) will respond to potential coronavirus-related issues on the University of Saskatchewan (USask) campus. Although the risk of infection remains low in Saskatchewan, we need to plan for certain scenarios involving people and animals associated with the veterinary college. USask response to COVID-19.

USask is focused on a proactive, preventive approach, which follows the lead set by Health Canada and the Saskatchewan Health Authority. As part of its regular operations, USask is developing emergency management plans in case they are needed. The USask Crisis Operations Team (COT) continues to post update at usask.ca/updates. USask has announced the following travel policies:

  • On March 10, USask released specific directives about travel for students to countries that fall under “avoid non-essential” or “avoid all travel” advisories issued by the Government of Canada. Please visit usask.ca/updates for more details.

  • On March 11, USask released a new travel policy for all faculty and staff. This new travel policy, which will require approval for all university travel, is effective immediately. Click here for more details. The policy includes any university-business travel (for students, faculty and staff) planned to regions where Government of Canada COVID-19 “Level 3” (avoid non-essential travel) or “Level 4” (avoid all travel) advisories exist. USask will not approve travel to these areas until further notice. Please review the entire policy regarding travel to and from the university.

  • USask continues to monitor the coronavirus and will review and modify the new travel practices to respond to a rapidly evolving situation.

WCVM response to COVID-19

  • After discussions with USask and the WCVM dean’s group, we have drafted some policy decisions to address potential issues involving students, faculty, staff and animals. Our intent is to remove any college barriers that might prevent faculty, staff or students from making decisions regarding their health, and to ensure the smooth continuation of as many operations as possible. We ask that units keep these priorities in mind as they respond to new situations.
  • The WCVM follows the university’s new policy on travel for students, faculty and staff. Please continue to visit usask.ca/updates for the latest USask reports. The WCVM’s policies and recommendations may change based on the university’s overall policies outlining academic-related travel.
Veterinary students (travelling during the academic school year)
  • Fourth-year students may decide against travelling to off-site clinical rotations or externships because of the potential risks related to COVID-19 without any academic penalty. That decision will be considered a valid excuse for not completing the rotation. The WCVM Student Services team will work with affected students to come up with alternative clinical rotations.
  • If fourth-year students decide to participate in off-site clinical rotations or externships, they must be aware that if they are exposed to COVID-19 or become ill with the coronavirus, they may need to miss subsequent rotations or externships because of the self-quarantine period or illness. These consequences may also affect the students’ date of convocation.
Veterinary students (travelling spring/summer months)
  • USask will not allow students to travel for university-related activities to countries that fall under “avoid non-essential” or “avoid all travel” advisories issued by the Government of Canada. Please see usask.ca/updates for more information.
  • Groups of WCVM veterinary students are travelling to countries around the world with programs such as Global Vets and Veterinarians Without Borders/Vétérinaires sans frontières (VWB/VSF). In previous years, the university and the college have always supported these international travel opportunities as long as students are not visiting countries where there are travel advisories.
  • If participating WCVM students decide to change their plans and not travel this year, their college travel awards will carry over to the next year.
  • Because of COVID-19’s global spread, WCVM students must be aware of the potential risks before continuing with their travel plans. If students choose to travel to other countries, they must accept the risk. If they are exposed to COVID-19 or become ill with the coronavirus, they may need to change their travel plans or remain in self-quarantine upon their return to Saskatchewan. As well, international travel could potentially result in quarantine elsewhere. Depending on the timing, these actions may affect their academic attendance. It is recommended that all students purchase comprehensive travel insurance and make arrangements in case they need to stay longer in the countries because of illness or quarantine.
Veterinary students: classes, OSCEs and final examinations in the event of a university closure With no cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan, operations at USask continue as normal.
  • If USask cancels lectures due to COVID-19, the college will need to provide online lectures for its students. If the entire USask campus closes, we will need to consider the necessary requirements to manage classes from home. Everyone should consider how they will respond to these possibilities.
  • If examinations can not be administered on campus, the WCVM will arrange for final examinations to be administered through Blackboard or another online resource.
  • If veterinary students (Years 1 to 3) cannot complete their OSCE examinations on campus, the WCVM will arrange to have the OSCEs available before the next academic year commences.
  • To ensure that all examinations are available in advance, the WCVM’s Student Services is requesting that faculty/instructors submit their final examinations and answer keys to department representatives before Mar. 31.
WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC)
  • If the entire USask campus closes, the WCVM will request that the Veterinary Medical Centre remain open to accommodate emergency cases coming in to the Small Animal Clinic and Large Animal Clinic and to continue offering as many regular services as possible.
  • If a growing number of WCVM staff members are unable to work because of the spread of COVID-19, the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre may need to cancel clinical services. Clinical teams will send home as many patients as possible and concentrate on caring for critical care and emergency patients that aren’t stable enough to be discharged. This is an unlikely scenario and one we wish to avoid, but it is prudent to consider all possibilities.
  • The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre will plan for different scenarios and adjust their actions based on circumstances.
  • The college will also consider alternatives for fourth-year students if their 580 clinical rotations are disrupted.
Graduate students
  • If graduate students decide to remain at home for an extended period because of COVID-19 health issues (personal illness or fear of exposing family members to the virus), the graduate students will need to follow the USask College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies’ regular policies for requesting unpaid leave. The college will align with any changes in university policies related to COVID-19.
  • We ask that graduate advisers work to accommodate graduate students who are making decisions based on their health concerns.
  • The WCVM will work with the affected graduate students to accommodate delays to their programs because of exceptional circumstances.
  • If USask decides to close the university, this approach may need to change based on the university’s policies.
Staff/faculty members
  • On March 11, USask implemented changes to the university’s “Request to Travel” processes in response to the COVID-19 global outbreak. For more details, please click here.
  • If employees choose to not come in to work because of a COVID-19-related issue, or if they can not return to work because of illness or self-quarantine, we will follow the university policies and procedures related to vacation, sick time and COVID-19 response.
  • We ask faculty and staff to consider preparations for continuing your instructional or research obligations remotely.
Animal Care Unit
  • To ensure the care and safety of animals housed in the WCVM Animal Care Unit and other facilities, the WCVM will need to arrange for volunteers in case a large number of ACU employees become ill or are unable to come to work because of COVID-19. We don’t anticipate that this will be a major issue, but we want to have a back up plan to ensure that animal welfare concerns are addressed.
  • If necessary, we will implement the WCVM Animal Care Unit’s emergency response plan that addresses potential situations including disease outbreaks and building closures.
Events at the college
  • As the situation evolves, everyone should be aware that some or all events at the college may be affected or need to be cancelled. If possible, please consider alternative plans.
Questions?
  • If you have any college-related questions or concerns, please email wcvm.deansoffice@usask.ca or call 306-966-7448.
  • For more information or if you have questions related the USask response, please email covid19@usask.ca.
  • For the latest updates on Canada’s response to COVID-19, please visit the Government of Canada website. 

Veterinary Medical Centre

COVID-19 response

In response to the COVID-19 situation, the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) is only open to emergencies, urgent cases and cases already under treatment.

These changes in the veterinary teaching hospital allow us to protect the health and safety of staff, students and clients while maintaining high-quality care for our patients.

The VMC is also following a stringent admission/discharge protocol to minimize contact between clients and members of the clinical team members and to prevent the spread of infection.

For more information, click the buttons below. 

VMC case management

To help keep everyone safe, the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre is limiting interaction between clinical staff and animal owners. 

The risk of contracting COVID-19 from our animal patients is extremely low. Based on information from the World Health Organization and other sources, human-to-human contact is the main risk. The following recommendations will help to minimize that risk:

  • WASH your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently.
  • WIPE objects after passing them between you and others.
  • WIPE objects, counters, surfaces and any touch point after each use.
  • WIPE counters and surfaces frequently, especially in areas used by more than one person.
  • DON’T ALLOW clients to enter the hospital. Use the phone to talk to the animals’ owners.

Click here to review the procedures for managing cases at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. You're also welcome to download the PDF documents. 

Student support

Help for students in financial crisis

We understand that the current situation may have created additional financial strain for our students. The University of Saskatchewan, as well as the WCVM, each has a fund that may be able to support students in need by providing emergency funding.

The Nasser Emergency Fund (USask)

This fund is managed centrally by the University of Saskatchewan’s Student Services. Students in considerable crisis can write to askus@usask.ca

With their email, students will need to provide the following:

  • student number
  • date of birth
  • copy of your direct deposit/voided cheque
  • brief description of your needs for the next two months
  • phone number for verification purposes

The Smart Emergency Loan (WCVM)

This fund was created through the generous support of Drs. Jim and Meg Smart.

The WCVM has limited funds available for current WCVM undergraduate and graduate students who find themselves in circumstances that require temporary, emergency funding.

Guidelines

  • Application for funds is made to Paige Links, Manager of Student Services, WCVM
  • Availability of funds may vary
  • The Smart Emergency Loan is designed to help students through a temporary financial crisis
  • Repayment terms are flexible and determined by the Manager of Student Services
  • There is no interest charged on emergency loans as long as the repayment terms are adhered to
  • Loans are for, but not limited to, the following expenses:
    • living expenses
    • unexpected medical expenses

COVID-19 resources

For animal health care workers

Veterinary medicine during a time of restriction of elective services and social distancing
Dr. Scott Weese, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph

COVID-19: owner contact guidelines (management tree)
Dr. Scott Weese, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph

Worms and Germs blog
Dr. Scott Weese, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph

Protecting your veterinary team during the pandemic (COVID-19)
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

Minimizing COVID-19 exposure and social distancing in veterinary medicine (flowchart)
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

AAHA Infection Control, Prevention and Biosecurity Guidelines
American Animal Hospitals Association (AAHA)

AVMA COVID-19 information for veterinarians
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

WSAVA COVID-19 advice and resources
World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA)

OIE Q & A on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
World Organisation for Animal Health

Infection control: CDC guidelines
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention