Dr. Glen Winters checks on Maisi at the Phoenix Animal Hospital temporary office in the Winco Mall in Medford on Thursday. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
Phoenix Animal Hospital is being rebuilt after being destroyed in the Almeda fire. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
On the day of the Almeda fire, staff at Phoenix Animal Hospital saved themselves and the animals – everything else burned, said Brittney Gilman, the hospital’s office manager.
They believed, like many other survivors of the Almeda fire, that the evacuation was just a formality and that they might soon return. As a safety measure, staff members took the patients back to their families. The clinic’s resident cat, Benjamin, was also taken out of harm’s way.
Now, after two years in a temporary location in the Winco Shopping Plaza in Medford, the hospital’s reconstruction project is in the home stretch of construction.
“It took about a year and a half just to get the permits approved,” Gilman said.
From the outside, the new Phoenix Animal Hospital appears to be ready for patients, but the fresh coat of paint applied to the exterior last week is deceiving, Gilman said. The floors and walls inside are still under construction.
“We are grateful to have a place where we can be,” Gilman said of their temporary quarters in Medford. “But it was not designed to be a veterinary hospital.”
The animal hospital is in space previously used by Valley Immediate Care, which contains larger — but fewer — exam rooms than their furry patients need. Most exam rooms are used as operating rooms for surgeries, so patients cannot be separated and seen as they normally would be, complicating how animals are cared for, Gilman said. .
Pet owners can’t enter, so all customer service is curbside, with one exception: a reserved exam room to say goodbye.
To further complicate the recovery of the hospital, only one doctor remains. The hospital had three before the fire, but one moved out and another retired.
Dr. Glen Winters works 10 hours a day, four days a week and a half day on Monday. He performs surgeries in the morning and sees patients in the afternoon, even during lunch, Gilman said. The rest of the staff support him as best they can, working long hours alongside him. The doctor and staff also stay late at night as needed for emergencies.
“We hope that when we move it will attract more doctors. They are really hard to find,” she said. “There are only a limited number of patients he can see in a day.”
The temporary hospital’s limited space and manpower often prevent them from accepting new patients, but they try not to turn away birds, reptiles or other small animals, Gilman said, because they are one of the few veterinarians in the region to take care of these species.
The new building is expected to be completed by January or February.
“Our lease is only valid here until January. It will mark the two-year mark that we have been in this place,” Gilman said. “So we’re hoping for January.”
Contact Morgan Rothborne, Mail Tribune reporter, at [email protected] or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.