Angell Animal Medical Center
MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center celebrated its one-hundred-year anniversary in 2015. The oldest animal hospital in New England and the only animal specialty hospital led by an animal welfare organization, the Massachusetts Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or MSPCA, Angell is actually a network of hospitals with locations throughout the surrounding areas of Boston. However, Angell Animal Medical Center refers to its Boston location, which is its headquarters and offers the most comprehensive, specialized care. The hospital shares its 92,000 square foot space with the MSPCA adoption center.
In June 2020, TCR spoke with the hospital’s senior emergency specialist, Dr. Virginia Sinnott-Stutzman, who chairs the committee tasks with setting hospital policy and protocols during the pandemic.
ANGELL ANIMAL MEDICAL CENTER BOSTON, MA
In Massachusetts — where, according to the New York Times, about 800 new COVID-19 cases each day continue to be reported and where 6,640 people have died from causes related to the virus — Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston is one of the country’s oldest and most renowned veterinary hospitals. Now part of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals (MSPCA), Angell celebrated its centennial in 2015; The Boston Globe marked the occasion with a 13-page cover spread in its magazine.
When Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker ordered nonessential businesses to cease in-person operations starting March 24, Angell “pretty much immediately” stopped allowing clients inside the building and asked almost all administrative employees to work remotely, Angell’s Dr. Virginia Sinnott-Stutzman, chair of the Infection Control Committee, explained in an interview.
‘Gowns Are The Worst.’
Surgical gowns have been the most challenging type of personal protective equipment for the hospital to procure since the first weeks of the pandemic. “Gowns are the worst,” Sinnott-Stutzman said. “We really are having a hard time finding reusable gowns…I think we’re down to like 100, which seems like a lot until you realize we employ, you know, 120 veterinarians, let alone however many techs that go along with that.”
Dr. Sinnott-Stutzman, who is board-certified in Emergency and Critical Care, said that masks have been easier to procure because volunteers who normally walk dogs at the animal shelter attached to the hospital have instead been “sewing masks like crazy.” Also, there has been a steady flow of donated masks from the public. Sinnott-Stutzman added that the hospital had a small but adequate supply of surgical masks, which they limit for uses such as orthopedic surgery, when, she explained, “there’s going to be an implant like a plate because the chances for an infection or the consequences of an infection are much higher with an implant.. If your plate gets infected, it has to come out…”
‘Those Dogs Are Lame But They’re Not Going To Die.’
Not much orthopedic surgery was taking place, however, for the first 4-6 weeks of the lockdown. “We suspended knee surgeries, like TPLO’s, so those dogs are lame but they’re not going to die,” Sinnott-Stutzman said. Spays and neuters were also postponed. Other surgeries and visits deemed as non-urgent were rescheduled. The hospital has started performing elective surgeries again, but not at the same volume. “We don’t overwhelm the surgery service and consume lots of PPE,” she explained. “We might have done twelve to sixteen knee surgeries a week and… I think each surgeon is limited to one or two, so that’s…five to ten.”
Asked about the pandemic’s financial impact on the hospital and how ongoing limits on services such as knee surgeries factored, hospital spokesman Rob Halpin wrote in an email, “We don’t disclose the specific financial details related to the pandemic’s impact on Angell Animal Medical Center. But we can tell you that limiting our services to urgent and emergent care has, over the last three months, significantly impacted Angell’s bottom line. We do not anticipate having to make notable changes to the operating budget, however,” Halpin added.
Dr. Sinnott-Stutzman was enthusiastic about telemedicine, for reasons beyond its obvious convenience: “You might not get the same information in terms of putting your hands on the pet,” she explained, “But man, you get some different and very good information. Like, seeing the pet in their home environment and how they’re behaving like, are they curled up in the corner in the home environment looking sad? I can’t tell you how many clients tell me, you know, with their dog jumping around the waiting room, how sick the dog looked at home, but seeing it in the video is really helpful to go, ‘Oh I see what you’re saying…..Sometimes it might be in some cases better information…”
‘I Would Feel Like The Worst Human In The World.’
Although Angell has struggled to maintain adequate supply levels of personal protective equipment since the early weeks of the pandemic, the hospital nonetheless donated many of its coveted supplies to neighboring human hospitals, along with its only ventilator. “We donated our ventilator,” Sinnott-Stutzman said. “They only had it for about a month and half….There was maybe one case of many, many respiratory cases that we saw during Covid where I felt like the dog would’ve had a better shot with a ventilator, but it happened to be right when we locked down and the owners were like, ‘If you were ventilating my dog right now, I would feel like the worst human in the world.’ Because we were at that surge and people were dying for lack of ventilators…It was really–Boston got pretty–We weren’t as bad as New York by any stretch of the imagination, but when we were at our surge, we were at something like 90% of our hospital capacity.”
“The other big piece with ventilation,” she continued, “is that it’s very labor intensive.” Sinnott-Stutzman explained that another reason the hospital decided to donate its ventilator was because, “We may not have been able to have the staffing to ventilate… we were like, ‘we may not even be able to physically use the machine.’”
‘Construction Actually Starts Next Month’
Asked if the crunch has caused any changes in plans as far as major projects, Sinnott-Stutzman said that everything was proceeding as planned, including plans to expand the hospital’s ICU. “So, construction actually starts next month, which is so weird to me, but yeah, we’re doing it! Weird only because, like, who’s doing construction during the pandemic?”
TCR’s veterinary hospital database is under construction. More coming soon. Thank you for your patience.
- Founded in 1915
- Until 2003, it was known as Angell Memorial Hospital