Surgical services at military veterinary clinics suspended

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Emphasis placed on routine exams to improve access to basic care and health of bottom line.

The U.S. Army Public Health Command announced early this month that it has temporarily suspended surgical procedures at all military veterinary clinics. Originally, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps installations were tasked with providing basic physicals, vaccinations, registrations and sick call hours for veterinary patients. Now it's estimated that 100 to 150 military clinics have expanded their services to include surgical procedures, including spays and neuters, dental work and tumor removals.

Army Lt. Col. Matt Takara, animal medicine program manager for the Public Health Command, says in military publications that this expansion has required military clinics to hire more civilian providers and to reduce the number of routine appointments available. The bottom line has also been affected, as the facilities do not receive taxpayer support. While all services are provided at a greatly reduced cost for active duty personnel, retirees and their families, the clinics rely on revenues from routine exams to cover basic operating expenses.

"[This will] greatly increase the number of service members and families we provide support to within our military communities and generate the profits required to cover our basic operating expenses," Takara told Military Times. Clinics also raised prices from $25 to $35 for a basic exam and increased prices for flea and tick medications and heartworm pills.

"While we strive to keep our prices as low as possible, we must generate enough revenue to cover our operating costs. These changes are occurring globally, but our goal is to increase access to care and provide more wellness and sick call appointments to our military families' pets," Takara said.

Military veterinary installations also provide comprehensive care, support and training to military working dogs, federal working dogs and their handlers, and they conduct sanitary inspections for on-base food establishments. The surgery suspension is expected to be in effect for several months, but no end date has been publicized.

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