Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe may run upgraded veterinary hospital


By Karen Billing

The Helen Woodward Animal Center is looking to add veterinary hospital to its long list of services to animals. While the center, which will turn 40 years old in 2012, has always had an independently-run vet hospital on site, the center has never run its own veterinary hospital. On Dec. 15, the center’s board will make a final decision on whether to run the veterinary hospital, which was upgraded last December. The plan is for Helen Woodward to operate the hospital potentially as soon as Jan. 1, employing high quality vets and eventually become an after-hours emergency clinic for the community.

The previous veterinary hospital, Rancho Santa Fe Veterinary Hospital, needed to move to a smaller space, paving the way for this unique business model. It’s a unique business model, but not necessarily a new concept.

“The original vision that Helen Woodward and her friends had for the center was for a small animal hospital that would support the community, just as the equine hospital did,” said Dr. Patricia Carter, chief of staff.

If the board gives its final approval, Carter and Eileen Beattie, director of administration, will be charged with bringing that vision to life, getting the veterinary hospital up and running to its best potential.

“The goal is for it to serve the community and basically become a profit center for the rest of the areas of the Helen Woodward facility that are non-profit,” Carter said.

“It’s really going to be like a one-stop shop,” said Beattie. “It’s a win-win, giving back to the veterinary community we support and giving monetary resources to help the rest of the center’s programs and help find orphan animals new homes.”

Carter and Beattie led a tour through the spacious and vacant hospital on Nov. 23. Off Helen Woodward Way, the hospital is attached to the new administration building that opened in April.

The upgraded hospital is much larger than the old facility: 10,000 square feet versus the old 6,000 square feet. They now have nine exam rooms.

The large back area has separate treatment areas and surgery prep areas, whereas most hospitals have both in the same room. There are also two additional surgery rooms with observation windows for teaching, a designated dental area, two isolation areas to keep infectious cases like parvo (canine parvovirus) contained, a cat ward, and an avian and exotics ward.

There’s even a room for natural healing treatments such as hydrotherapy, reiki and massage for animals recovering from surgery.

A small back room serves as a comfort/grief area for people who have lost a pet — “It can be hard to lose a pet,” Carter said, noting that those people have the option of leaving through a separate back door, without having to walk through the front of the facility.

Carter said they are looking for about 10 veterinarians who are looking to practice high quality medicine without the headaches of owning their own office. An open house was held on Nov. 16 for prospective vets.

“We want to make sure their standards of medicine are the same as the reputation of the center,” Carter said. “We’re look for good quality vets who want to practice medicine in a beautiful setting. This is a great hospital.”

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