Valley Veterinary Hospital in Gwaelod-y-Garth, the first dedicated animal hospital in Wales, suffered devastating flooding earlier in 2020, after having been open only nine months. Seven weeks and a day later, parts of the hospital are re-open to treat pets. We wanted to speak to the team there to find out how they managed to re-open again so quickly, so here Mark Evans, Business Development Director at VetPartners, who operate Valley Vets, tells us a little more about what happened, and what the future holds.
Could you talk us through what happened through Storm Dennis?
At 3am on the morning of Sunday, 16 February, our team noted the river Taff behind the hospital was just starting to burst its banks. 45 minutes later, the water was 1.2m deep through the entire ground floor. Two vets and three nurses safely evacuated sixteen in-patients to the first floor in a very short period of time. They also tried to save expensive equipment by lifting it up off the floor onto tables and work surfaces. Sadly, the water rose even higher, and equipment roughly the value of half-a-million-pounds on the ground floor was lost.
Mercifully though, all humans and pets were saved, and later evacuated (by boat) from the building by the fire service, to continue their treatment at our other branches. Large dogs in our care were even floated out on our long seat cushions from the seats in reception.
We are immensely proud of how our team reacted in a very scary situation. We are also incredibly grateful to the fire service for their bravery and efficiency in the crisis.
What impact has the storm and the damage caused had on the business and its customers?
Major disruption to both. Our out-of-hours service provides 24/7 A&E cover on behalf of 50 veterinary practices in South Wales. We had to temporarily move the out-of-hours service to our Gabalfa, Cardiff branch surgery. This service is now up-and-running again, from Monday, 6 April, at Gwaelod-y-yGarth.
What was your plan of action to get the Hospital back on track?
Everything on the ground floor had to be demolished and removed to allow cleaning and drying. The first floor, however, was not affected. We had spare capacity on the first floor for future expansion plans, so we moved what we could all into the first floor. We have converted office and storerooms into operating theatres, procedure rooms, and kennels. Our amazing contractors (EDS Ltd) worked at super-speed, and as the threat from Covid-19 intensified, they completed the refurb of the first floor in just four weeks.
How were you able to open up parts of the Hospital so quickly?
Luckily we were well-insured. Our hearts go out to those affected in the floods who did not have insurance cover. We employed professional flood recovery cleaners and were able to redirect the same contractors who built the Hospital initially away from a yet-to-open VetPartners project back to our site.
What advice do you have for others in a similar position?
I always had sympathy for those people whose homes and businesses have been flooded in the past. However, until you experience flood damage yourself you don’t truly appreciate the devastation that flood water can cause in such a short space of time. Our team were OK. Our patients were safe. This was not our home. We were the lucky ones!
Has the impact of Storm Dennis caused you to think differently about business, especially in light of the Coronavirus crisis affecting the world?
We had a flood, followed by a plague only four weeks later. Hopefully, there won’t be a third crisis. Never take anything for granted, and always plan for the worst whilst hoping for the best. Work together as a team and you will always succeed. Bad situations often bring out the best in individuals. There are always people out there much less fortunate than yourselves, and facing much tougher challenges. Smile your way through problems and try to find some humour, even in dark places – it really does help you and everyone around you.