Pike County faces shortage in veterinarians

Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 6:29 PM CST
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PITTSFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - It’s a common problem facing rural counties: veterinarians struggling to keep up with demand.

One of many examples is Griggsville-Pittsfield Veterinarian Clinic where on Thursday owner Marvin Wilke and his employees were swamped as usual with the telephone ringing off the hook for appointments.

Wilke said he is one of three vets left in Pike County.

“Over the last year, we’ve lost two and a half veterinarians in the Pittsfield area,” Wilke said. “My partner went down to part-time so he works every other week. The clinic on the east side of town closed. So we lost two veterinarians there. The clinic in Barry is the only other one in Pike County.”

Wilke said at his practice, he’s pretty much on his own as a qualified veterinarian unless his part time partner is there. He said he could use at least a couple more. He said he also does not have enough vet techs or receptionists.

He said it’s also hard to hire veterinarians in rural areas specifically competing with bigger cities and bigger companies.

“They have bigger pay,” Wilke said. “And some of them are offering as big as a $75,000 sign on bonus.”

Wilke said additionally, in a rural area like Pittsfield that has a mix of residents and farmers, he can’t really specialize in a specific animal. He has to take care of a wide range of animals from household cats to cattle.

“In Quincy there are two large animal clinics,” Wilke said. “And the others are for smaller animals. So they get to specialize.”

Farmer Jason Thomas said it’s been harder to get care for his livestock and makes sure to book appointments weeks in advance.

“When the calves and the cattle are sick it’s sometimes kind of hard to get people to come look at the cattle in a timely manner,” Thomas said. “And Marvin’s always been good on his end. But I know there’s a shortage and he’s drawing pretty thin on trying to get everybody covered.”

Thomas said he raises more than 10,000 hogs and cattle per year. And while he does his best to care for sick animals, there’s only so much he can do.

“A lot of the medicine you’ve got to have script for,” Thomas said. “And you can’t just go buy the medicine over the counter.”

Wilke said another reason it’s hard to recruit and incentivize vets is how the pay is about the same as it is to work on the less taxing research side. Additionally, vets are getting paid about a quarter of what medical doctors are. And in rural areas that pay is smaller.

“We’re going to have to think of things other than salary to entice them to come over to the area,” Wilke said.

Wilke said he is trying to get a scholarship incentive started where he could put budding vets through school.

He said both of his offices in Griggsville and Pittsfield are set to close in January and get consolidated into a single clinic in Industrial Plaza starting in January 2023.

More information on the shortage of veterinarians in rural America.

Check other rural areas in Illinois with a lack of veterinarians.

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