Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

CRIKEY! IT'S AN OZ ZOO EXODUS 'Vet Was Sacked in the Middle of an Operation'

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

CRIKEY! IT'S AN OZ ZOO EXODUS 'Vet Was Sacked in the Middle of an Operation'

Article excerpt

Byline: Kathy Sundstrom

A VETERINARIAN at Terri Irwin's Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital was allegedly sacked mid-surgery last month, as staff turnover spirals and fears for animal safety increase.

Sources say 12 staff have left in the past six months, including the highly-regarded head vet Dr Claude Lacasse.

Vet Dr Jackie Reed was allegedly stopped while operating on a koala and told she was out of a job. It's understood the Wildlife Hospital employs 16 nursing staff and four vets at a time.

More than half of these have had to be replaced or the positions are still vacant, with the zoo advertising on its website.

The hospital is one of the projects operated by Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors Ltd, a registered charity.

It is funded by donations and the Sunshine Coast Council contributes $50,000 a year as part of its draft Koala Conservation Plan.

All staff employed at the zoo are required to sign confidentiality contracts on employment and those concerned about what is happening there say they are afraid of speaking out for fear of being sued.

Australia Zoo declined to comment on the staffing situation, preferring instead to focus on the good work of the hospital.

But at least four sources, plus two carers who agreed to be quoted directly, have contacted the Daily and provided insight into the situation.

Wildlife carers Margaret Hewitt and Diane Meldrum revealed they no longer felt comfortable sending sick animals there.

In the past month, six nurses have left and Dr Lacasse, who had been employed at the zoo for seven years, quit two weeks ago.

"Ever since Australia Zoo got involved in the management of the hospital it has gone downhill. The management is terrible," one source said.

"People have contacted Terri (Irwin) with their problems and she just doesn't get back to them."

Concerns were being raised about the level of service at the once world-class hospital.

"The animals are being handled by inexperienced staff. …

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