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Ocean View Veterinary Hospital in Cape May Court House experienced major change because of the pandemic, but it held strong to its commitment to help animals in need.

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Ocean View Veterinary Hospital is a general and emergency veterinary hospital in Cape May County, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the group had no choice but to stay open to help animals in need. Mario Marano, who oversees general operations of the hospital, said that “COVID was a game-changer for us,” and that the lessons the staff learned during that time are indispensable.

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Mario has been in the veterinary care business for over 25 years, but he said that the difficulties that were brought about by the pandemic were among the most difficult he has ever seen. “One day we were open, and the very next we had to close to the public,” he said.

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This sudden halt to normal operations meant that the staff had to find entirely new ways to communicate with clients. Supply lines tanked, anxieties were high, nearby vets stopped accepting new clients, and all the while, traffic was busier than ever at Ocean View Veterinary Hospital. This led to longer wait times with the advent of curbside service. 

With these longer waits, pet owners felt increasingly uneasy about their pets’ health.

Mario said the general unease that permeated lockdown brought with it a spike in clients who took their frustration out on the vet staff. These anxieties and difficulties were felt across the broader veterinary industry, which Mario said “shrank” somewhat because of the pandemic. 

Many veterinary doctors and technicians left the industry for good because of the intense stress that the pandemic brought. This reality means that hiring new staff is increasingly difficult.

Because of this shrinking, Ocean View Veterinary Hospital is no longer able to accept emergency patients between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.; animals will be redirected to Garden State Vet Specialists during these hours, although a doctor is on-call should an issue arise with an animal who is already hospitalized.

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Despite these hardships, the “on the fly thinking” brought about by the deadly pandemic made the hospital more flexible in the long term. Two doctors, Dr. Renee Sparacio and Dr. Justin Praslicka, were made co-medical directors of the practice as the pandemic receded. Their new roles will allow the two doctors to mentor young staff and constantly assess and improve the hospital’s protocols and standards of care.

Dr. Renee said that she is excited “to determine what we can change to do better;” she finds great joy in working with clients’ pets. “It is an absolute privilege to be there for our clients, whether it's through an emergency surgery, lengthy hospital stays, wellness care as their pets grow, or ultimately being there to help them say goodbye. The relationships I have built over the past 12 years in this field are something that I cherish dearly,” she said.  

Dr. Justin says that he is “most excited about being able to continue to be there for pets and their owners on an emergency basis despite the significant veterinarian shortage.”

This new structure was made possible by the partial retirement of Dr. Ira, the hospital’s founder. Mario is excited about these changes and sees incredible room for optimism.

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Dr. Renee Sparacio

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Dr. Justin Praslicka

He said, “we looked at the situation and said: here’s how we are going to keep our staff safe, our clients safe. It was very difficult to figure out new procedures, protocols, and things we had never dealt with before while also trying to rely on information from the government as the COVID situation constantly evolved. All of that had to be done in a short period of time. But we got through it, and as a result, we are stronger and will keep moving forward no matter what challenges we face.”

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The staff at Ocean View Veterinary Hospital work hard around the clock to help pets in need. Without such an incredible team, Mario said that the practice could not exist and could not provide the high-quality care the hospital is known for. 

He asks that clients always remain respectful and kind to vet staff even when tensions are high. “We have your and your pets’ best interests at heart,” he said. “We’re here doing the best job that we can at all times.”

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