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Shortage of veterinarians leaves north country pet lovers scrambling in an emergency

in Animals/Local News 384 views

To save her dog, Tracy Weeks resorted to lying as to who owned it in order to get the local emergency care that saved its life.

“I live penny to penny and my dog’s surgery was $1,059,” Weeks, of Watertown, wrote in an email to the Times. “I had to do it as she is all I have, as I lost my husband to suicide a few years ago, so she’s my best friend.”

A lack of veterinarians in the north country has caused a scramble, especially when emergency, off-hours urgent care is needed for a pet, which equates to a road trip to as far away as the Albany area. Meanwhile, new pet owners could be out of luck as that veterinarian shortage also limits some practices from accepting new clients and their pets.

“They want you to rescue animals, but how?” Weeks wrote. “We can’t get care.”

It is a familiar complaint heard by veterinarians like Dr. Christopher J. Jank, co-owner/partner at Watertown Animal Hospital, 1445 Washington St.

“A lot of pet owners aren’t happy that it came to this,” Jank said. “Some of them are also realizing that it wasn’t sustainable the way we were doing it. You can’t do it all 24/7.”

Fewer veterinarians are available in the area due to retirement, medical issues and relocation, Jank said, adding that there is also the “inability to work normal office hours, burnout, young children at home and corporate policies.”

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The powers that be: 50 years ago, NNY and U.S. struggled with a lack of energy

in Local News/Transportation 480 views

Last year, the United States produced more oil than any country in history. The fact that we’re awash in crude trickled down to gas pumps late last year when motorists saw relief as prices fell.

This comes as the current White House administration is driven to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels; a presidential political conundrum. Meanwhile, recall those “I (Biden) Did That!” stickers mischievously placed on gas pumps before the price downfall? Evaporated.

Jim Burkhard, vice president and head of research for oil markets, energy and mobility, S&P Global Commodity Insights, told the weekly Oil & Gas Journal a few weeks ago, “Not only is the U.S. producing more oil than any country in history, but the amount of oil (crude oil, refined products, and natural gas liquids) that it is exporting is near the total production of Saudi Arabia or Russia. When you look back on 2008 — when U.S. production was at a 62-year low, and exports were zero — it is a remarkable turnaround.”

Compared to 50 years ago, that turnaround is even more amazing when an energy-starved U.S. looked to Arab countries and urgently asked, “Please, may we have some more?”

During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries imposed an embargo against the U.S. in retaliation for its decision to re-supply the Israeli military and to gain leverage in the post-war peace negotiations. Arab OPEC members also extended the embargo to other countries that supported Israel including the Netherlands, Portugal and South Africa. Canada was spared.

For a country dependent on foreign oil, the embargo strained the U.S. economy and altered lifestyle, including here in Northern New York — from temperatures in homes to tempers at the gas pumps.

The price of oil per barrel quadrupled, challenging the stability of national economies. The refined product at gas pumps was increasingly savored, occasionally by thieves. For example, on Dec. 28, 1973, crooks hit Chiumento’s Arco Station at 1240 Arsenal St., Watertown, becoming the third gas station in seven days in the city to have a large quantity of fuel stolen from its underground tanks. The three thefts totaled 3,008 gallons. In the Arco station theft, city police said a tanker truck driver, overnight, made off with 680 gallons of regular gas, valued at $329 — $2,165 in today’s dollars.

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Infant formula shortage hits home in the north country

in Local News 231 views

WATERTOWN — Few things have the power to occupy a parent’s mind more than the health of their children.

The nationwide infant formula shortage, brought on by supply chain issues and a major formula recall, has left many concerned about their options for feeding their little ones. Northern New York has not been immune to what has become a common sight in grocery stores across the country: empty spaces on shelves that used to be filled by infant formula. At Price Chopper and other stores in the north country, signs tell customers to see a sales associate to have them unlock the formula they need — if it’s in stock — and customers are only allowed to buy a certain amount at any given time.

The infant formula market was heavily disrupted when the Sturgis, Michigan, Abbott Nutrition plant recalled popular powdered formulas in February, then shut down. Those recalled products included powder formula sold under the labels Similac, Alimentum and EleCare labels after four children became ill with bacterial infections and two died. Abbott is one of the largest manufacturers of infant formula in the U.S.

The Sturgis plant, through an Abbott deal with the Food and Drug Administration, is expected to resume operations in early June.

During a House hearing on Wednesday, FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf detailed “egregiously unsanitary” conditions at the Sturgis plant and acknowledged the FDA’s response to the problems was too slow.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations heard from Mr. Califf and Abbott Senior Vice President of U.S. Nutrition Christopher J. Calamari.

Legislation to help ease the infant formula shortage has been progressing through Congress this month.

The Access to Baby Formula Act was approved in the House by a 414-9 vote and passed the Senate by unanimous consent. The legislation expands pandemic-era flexibilities granted to Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC participants. President Joseph R. Biden signed the bill into law on May 21.

The Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act would allocate $28 million in emergency funding to the FDA to bolster inspections of formula manufactured at foreign facilities and work to prevent future scarcities. The bill passed the House 231-192 in a mainly party-line vote. In the Senate, Republicans are arguing that giving more money to the FDA is not the solution to the shortage.

Last week, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to increase formula production and authorize aircraft to help speed shipment of infant formula to the United States from overseas. Initial shipments have already arrived.

About 2 million cans of infant formula made by U.K.-based Kendal Nutricare are expected to arrive on U.S. shelves starting next month after receiving special clearance from the FDA, the agency said earlier this week.

The ripple effects from the Sturgis plant closing have been widespread, with parents calling on friends and family to help locate food for their babies and some resorting to making their own formula at home, rationing supplies, or driving for hours in search of formula.

The New York State Department of Health has said it’s important that families don’t hoard formula, which will further impact the supply chain and other families. For families struggling to find the formula they need, the Department of Health recommends calling an infant’s medical provider to see if they have in-office samples or can suggest a similar formula that may be more readily available in stores; looking online for options available but only ordering from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies; refraining from using toddler formula to feed infants; and not watering down formula or trying to make infant formula at home.

A MOTHER’S PERSPECTIVE

Watertown mother Taylor M. Fields, 27, has experienced the effects of the formula shortage firsthand. Her son Stephen “Stevie” G. Terry turned 7 months old on Monday. He is eating some solids, but he still needs formula, as infants generally can begin with solids at about 6 months old, but should typically continue with either formula or breast milk until they’re a year old.

“I go to the store to check and there’s barely anything,” Ms. Fields said. “He’s on a certain kind and I would hate to switch him when he’s been on it since he was 3½ months old, and he does well on it.”

Ms. Fields said she’s lucky that Stevie doesn’t have any allergies and doesn’t spit up much, so she can buy the store-brand formula at a cheaper price and usually with more in each container than the name brands. Stevie is on Enfamil Gentlease and is usually given the generic version of it. On Tuesday, Ms. Fields was at the Route 3 Walmart and said the store had the name brand. One 12-ounce can cost $18, and she bought two of them.

She normally buys Stevie’s formula at Sam’s Club, but checks two or three times a week and said Sam’s Club has been out of stock. When in stock, it costs $24 for a 48-ounce canister of the formula, which lasts about 2½ weeks for Stevie. Ms. Fields said the struggle to find formula at all, and the added cost when she does, has been stressful.

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