VetPartners Italy MD predicts pandemic will accelerate further change in veterinary profession

VetPartners Italy MD predicts pandemic will accelerate further change in veterinary profession

THE managing director of VetPartners Italy believes the veterinary profession will emerge stronger than ever after showing great adaptability and resilience in the face of the global health crisis.

Veterinary practices in Italy had to adapt even more quickly than their UK counterparts to new social distancing protocols and ways of working after the country became the epicentre of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak.

While veterinary services have returned to normal at VetPartners’ five practices across northern Italy, social distancing measures, the wearing of PPE and new protective screens in reception remain in place. New ways of working for the 170 vets, nurses and receptionists will continue.

David Giraldi, who heads VetPartners in Italy, believes the profession across the UK and Europe demonstrated great resourcefulness and spirit of togetherness to continue providing veterinary care, while protecting colleagues and clients during the international effort to fight coronavirus.

With no blueprint on how to work under such circumstances, Italian veterinary practices faced unprecedented times as most other nations, including the UK, were approximately two weeks behind in the number of Covid-19 deaths.

Mr Giraldi said: “Covid-19 brought a big challenge and Italy had to respond immediately and lead the way in Europe. We were the first veterinary practices in Europe to organise new ways of working, new protocols and work flows and those changes have been used in other countries, including the UK.

“What really helped us was being able to respond quickly and get organised because we were already open to change. VetPartners practices have invested a large chunk of resources in customer care, the welfare of our people, team work and leadership. We care about the safety, health and wellbeing of clients, pets and our teams.

“The combination of being part of a group, having a resilient mindset and agile thinking enabled us adapt quickly. We changed systems and processes, ensuring clients remained outside and that we had an efficient phone system in place, and asked clients to fill in forms with the history of the animal. Pets were handed over the vet and communication between vet and owner takes place via mobile phone or from a distance.

“Initially, our governing body said we could handle emergencies only but we could decide what was urgent, and anything that could be postponed until April was. By the beginning of April, we could resume doing vaccinations and we’ve been working as normal for the past month, but following strict rules on distancing and hygiene.”

Mr Giraldi, who was previously a vet and joint owner of Ospedale Degli Animali in Ferrara in northern Italy, was appointed managing director of VetPartners Italy last November when the York-based veterinary group expanded into Europe by creating a platform of businesses in the country.

He believes the pandemic will herald further change in the Italian veterinary profession, with increased demand to join larger groups like VetPartners.

Mr Giraldi said: “This kind of problem has accelerated the change curve in Italy. A lot of practices in the north of Italy stopped working and closed during coronavirus but the resilient ones were able to continue.

“We already had a process of change, where people believed in progress, with a shared vision of people-centred practices where our values are about looking after each other. Practices with a good level of organisation, strategy and agility did well, while the more old-fashioned practices that don’t invest in people and innovation struggled.

“If you make teams feel safe and ensure there is trust and a sense of purpose and belonging, it creates a less stressful situation. People then feel more inclined to give back when looking after clients and their pets. Caring about people is the essence of leadership and people gave the best of themselves during the emergency.”

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