Ask an expert - Business profile - Hinsdale Animal Hospital

No owners allowed.

That was the new reality inside Hinsdale Animal Hospital once the state’s shelter-in-place restrictions went into place in mid-March.

Deemed an essential business, the clinic closed its lobby and had clients drop off their pets needing treatment.

“We’re having the owners call from the parking lot, and a technician goes out to get the animal,” explained Dee Herman, the practice’s manager. “We’re doing the exams and going over the results on the phone with the owner.”

Veterinarian and managing partner Joyce Ashamalla lamented having to reduce staff to comply with headcount restrictions in the building. Grooming services had to be suspended.

“We did have to furlough a lot of people and work with a very small staff,” Ashamalla said, “It was such a fluid situation, and I was certainly concerned about our ability to serve our patients.

“Because of a great team effort I think we were able to weather that storm together really well,” she added.

The business maintained its 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. hours, and customers kept coming.

“We’ve been pretty consistent throughout,” Herman related. “Some of (our clients) are very, very appreciative that we’re still open and that we are putting ourselves at risk to make sure that their pets are OK.”

With personal protective equipment on hand as part of the hospital’s normal operations, Ashamalla said her staff has endeavored to be strategic in conserving the supply. She stressed the move into a new, larger clinic at 724 N. York Road last fall couldn’t have happened at more fortuitous time.

“Just being in a facility that is more conducive to compartmentalizing areas of the hospital is great. Social distancing is easier because of the size,” Ashamalla said. “Everything is just spaced out more.”

Herman admitted the last couple of months have required a series of adjustments with internal protocols and customer communications.

“It’s a lot more phone calls every day and a little bit longer wait time since we have a limited staff,” she said.

The resumption of grooming May 1 was welcome news to owners and allowed them to repopulate the payroll.

“We’ve been able to bring back a lot of our staff,” Herman said. “We’re booked through the second week of June, so we’ve had a lot of interest.”

Sanitizing has been taken to whole new level even for an animal hospital, Ashamalla shared. She said the clinic’s plan is to reopen the lobby at the end of June or beginning of July while maintaining the curbside option for the foreseeable future. Plastic dividers will be installed at the front counter, and masks will continue to be worn by staff. The health and safety of customers and staff is paramount, Ashamalla underscored.

“An outbreak would be very hard in our little hospital,” she said.

The two expressed appreciation for the hospital clientele’s cooperation, patience and appreciation.

“They’ve definitely expressed their gratitude, which has meant the world to us,” Ashamalla said. “At the end of the day, we really all came together as a community. That’s really the silver lining in all of this.”

— by Ken Knutson

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean