New Veterinary Clinic

Articles and Photos by Kate Maxwell – The Willits News

One week after this past Christmas, the staff at East Hill Veterinary Clinic celebrated the arrival of a present for the small animals of Willits: the opening of a brand new, expansive, and energy efficient building designed specially to expand the 35 year old Willits animal clinic.

“I just wish Dr. Grasse was here to see it” said Dr. Chana Eisenstein, DVM, “it’s the culmination of what he built here in the community.”

Eisenstein purchased the clinic with her partner Holly Bennett in September 2009, after moving from the bay area, about six weeks before beloved local vet Dr. Frank Grasse passed away. Grasse, whose name adorns the dog park located on East Commercial Street, was a mainstay in the community and operated his practice out of the same building after taking it over from rural vet Dr. Eric Davis.

After purchasing the practice, Eisenstein began planning the expansion a year or two later to improve safety and efficiency, but kept the focus on community throughout the process.

“We worked with locals on the whole thing – the designer, engineers, contractors and subcontractors are all locals,” she explained, “and we went with the greenest building possible.” The new, fully Americans with Disabilities Act compliant facility sits next to the former building, which is rented out as small offices. The expansion from a 2,400 square foot office to one double the size now allows the clinic to improve efficiency and provide a safer, cleaner environment for all visiting animals.

The construction began last April on the steel-framed building, designed by Wayne Bashore. Steel components were fabricated on site, and construction and other contracting was provided initially by Schulz Construction, and then transitioned to Collicot Construction.

The airy, well-lit, and spacious new building includes a variety of energy-saving features, including LED lighting, double and triple insulated window panes, and a solar array installed on the roof. “By spring or summer we should be providing all our own electricity, as well as giving back to the grid,” elaborated Eisenstein.

Inside, the facilities are significantly expanded, with a layout intended to ensure improved safety and health of animal visitors and efficiency of staff time. Local animal themed art adorns the walls in each space, including a number of collages from local Chris Forest and paintings from Laurel Miller, who’s daughter Jessica works at the clinic.

“It’s more efficient, and we can do a lot more with the space,” Eisenstein said. The number of exam rooms have doubled from two to four, with each room equipped with a moveable table that can be adjusted for the height and needs of each pet.

The treatment areas are also larger, with four tables in the main treatment room, and a full lab to do in-house testing and blood work. The main room now includes an area for prepping and aiding recuperating animals, so clinicians can keep a watch on their charges at all times. The treatment room also includes two “hotdogger” units to keep pets warm and healthy while anaesthetized. “It’s so nice – it’s a better, safer, and cleaner environment for everybody,” Eisenstein remarked, “and we have more ability to monitor hospitalized patients, since they’re right under our noses.”

During a tour, Eisenstein greeted Hugo, one dog scheduled for treatment, exclaiming as to how much he’d grown. “It’s so nice, we know them all and get to see them since they were small,” she commented.

The new building also includes a separate digital x-ray room, which is much safer for both animals and staff, and allows easier transfer of images. There’s also an isolation room, to allow for the improved containment of infectious diseases such as kennel cough. Additional improvements include two surgery rooms with a separate supply space, and the creation of an area of indoor kennels with the future capacity for radiant heating.

The layout also includes considerations to better utilize staff time, such as a storage room, two staff bathrooms, and even a room intended to become a grooming facility (but has been useful overflow storage during the move.) A new laundry room allows for the blankets and towels used to maintain animal comfort to be easily cleaned; previous facilities were housed outside. A central vacuum unit with hook-ups throughout the building allows staff to maintain hygiene throughout the space, and a closet marked as a “Squirrel’s Lair” provides room to keep the server and other electrical equipment out of the way.

“We get much more exercise here, it’s cardiovascular,” laughed Associate Veterinarian Dr. Emily Nietrzeba, DVM, MPH as she passed by. Nietrzeba also sees animal clients at the clinic.

The building houses four offices, two staff bathrooms and a staff break room with kitchen facilities, which was filled with happy employees during TWN’s visit. Previously, staff had to share a single bathroom with clients and had no space to eat lunch or relax between clients. The expanded administrative space also allows for two staff members to assist checking patients in and out. The clinic’s two cats, Lisbeth and Simon, who have adjusted to the new space. They have a cat door in the back for easy access to the outside.

The entire building is ADA-accessible, allowing clients to easily enter the main entrance (with no stairs), as well as a new and much larger client bathroom, which Eisentstein said was important in creating the building design: “it felt very good for us to make this change.”

Remarking, “oh, my rooster’s here!,” Eisentein rushed off to attend to patients after showing off the new space to this reporter. All small animals are welcome at the East Hill clinic, including cats, dogs, birds, and some “pocket pets” such as hamsters. The clinic has a full-time staff of 12 with two part-time employees, and also provides shared after-hours emergency services in coordination with Dr. Fred Jacobs at Willits Animal Hospital. The clinic also provides feline services to the Humane Society of Inland Mendocino.

More information about East Hill’s services can be found on their website, where patients can also contact the clinic regarding prescriptions, refills, appointments, and with other questions. The staff also post fun and informative updates about lost/found animals and animal care, as well as list useful resources. The clinic can also be found on Facebook.

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East Hill Veterinary Clinic is located at 1200 East Hill Road, and can also be reached by calling 459-5236. Open Monday – Thursday 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.