Nowra Vet Hospital—thinking big

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Nowra Vet Hospital

Big, multifunctional and purpose-designed, Nowra Vet Hospital is winning clients and expanding its area of operation. By Kerryn Ramsey

When Dr Andrew Havadjia was planning his new purpose-built practice, he wanted Nowra Veterinary Hospital (NVH) to be perfectly suited for both small and large animal work. And when it opened in 2019, that’s exactly what he got.

“I find it disappointing that many practices seem less inclined to do large animal work,” he says. “It’s a lot easier to get your skills in small animal work and so for a lot of vets, that’s their default position. A mixed practice is challenging, satisfying and profitable—I really don’t understand why more vets don’t adopt the business model.” 

Despite being a city boy, growing up in the inner Sydney suburb of Ashfield, Dr Havadjia has a real love of large animal work.

“You don’t have to be raised on a farm to be a good large animal practitioner,” he says. “I may be Ashfield born and bred but there’s nothing I like better than jumping in my car and going on a call.”

Now based on the south coast of NSW, Dr Havadjia’s practice, Nowra Veterinary Hospital, has been looking after clients in the Shoalhaven area for over 40 years. It first operated out of the back of a family home then moved a couple of blocks down the street. Dr Havadjia became a partner in the business in 1997 and sole owner in 2005.

Bigger and better

Even though the old NVH was positioned on an 800-square-metre block, Dr Havadjia knew the business desperately needed more space and better facilities.

“The new building sits on a 2000-square-metre block,” he says. “It was a servo car yard that was effectively a blank canvas. I used the skills of an architect friend to help design a purpose-built practice that contained everything I desired.”

About 40 per cent of business at NVH is large animal work, mainly consisting of dairy cattle, horses, sheep and the occasional alpaca and camel. “One of the main things I wanted was a facility where clients could drive in a trailer if they wanted to bring in a horse or calf,” he says.

The new NVH has plenty of room for parking and trailers. Behind the main building is a horse crush, a stable, and a yard to handle all types of large animals. The interior of the building is modern, clean and filled with light. The waiting and reception area features banquette seating and exudes a calm professionalism. Treatment and surgical areas are well appointed and the whole building has great sight lines that allows for easy supervision of animal patients.

Nowra Vet Hospital
Owner of Nowra Vet Hospital, Dr Andrew Havadjia.

“If you don’t have a decent facility, it can be difficult to attract staff,” says Dr Havadjia. “Clients also expect a certain level design and modernity—they associate that with good treatment.”

Cyclo comes on board

Dr Havadjia used the services of Cyclo, a company that designs and builds veterinary practices, childcare centres, office spaces and medical centres, to construct the new NVH. The project was a little unusual in that Dr Havadjia had already drawn up his plans. 

“His design was excellent and only needed a few minor changes,” says Jerome Gage, project manager on the build. “It just required some layout adjustments to improve the flow of the 550-square-metre clinic. It’s one of the larger, state-of-the-art veterinary clinics in the area.”

Building on the car yard of an old service station meant no heritage issues and swift approval by local council. “We had some minor issues, as all builds do, but we were able to overcome them relatively quickly.” 

Everything under one roof

NVH is a large, sleek practice with 18 staff. There are five consult rooms, one of which is a dedicated euthanasia room. This room is situated at the back of the practice with its own entrance. Clients don’t have to walk through the building after their pet has been euthanised. There’s a pharmacy area and a large treatment room with five tables. There’s also a separate lab, X-ray room, and a theatre where two surgeries can be performed at once. The large hospital kennel ward includes walk-in cages for larger dogs, as well as calves and other small ruminants.

“We seem to deal in extremes,” says Dr Havadjia. “We either see little dogs or really big dogs. We also included a separate cat ward, an isolation room, and a grooming room. The staff room is large and comfortable, and adding a laundry makes clean-up much easier.”

As NVH often hosts students from the University of Sydney and Charles Sturt University, Dr Havadjia included a student room with a kitchenette. Visiting students can work and stay at the practice.

Residential feel

NVH is a single-storey structure, sitting on a concrete slab. The high ceilings with clerestory windows flood the interior with light. Plaster walls, black furniture and timber floors gives the building an almost residential feel. Dr Havadjia included some Federation-style features at the front but inside is decidedly 21st century.

“Two of the best aspects of this practice are the overall size and the way it all fits together,” says Gage. “From the reception area, there’s a natural flow to the warm consulting rooms. From there it flows through to the clinic with quick access to the X-ray area, the lab and the pharmacy.”

The sides of the building have the grooming area, staff room and offices. The separate dog and cat wards are located at the back of the building. The centre of the clinic holds the treatment area, two theatres, the isolation area and the ICU. The layout is well considered for staff and there’s enough room, so it never feels crowded.

“The build has been a real success,” says Dr Havadjia. “Our clients love the new facilities and we’re getting more demand from further away. I love the challenge of continuously improving the practice.”

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