Animal practice: NT Vets brings healthcare to the Top End

Sam McMahon can’t recall a time when she didn’t love animals. She was just two and a half when she first decided he wanted to be a vet after a visit to the local practice with her family dog, Monty.

“My mum told me I said I wanted to be a vet when I grew up so I could help animals,” McMahon tells Kochie’s Business Builders (KBB). “I never wavered from that goal.”

Decades later she now owns and operates Northern Territory Vets, a practice that encompasses two clinics and services clients 100s of kilometres across the top end.
McMahon tells KBB she was inspired to open his clinic after a visit to the Northern Territory (NT} whilst she was still studying.

“I visited the NT to do some work on a cattle station at the end of my first year at university as part of my course and I fell in love with it. I spent the next four years telling all my classmates that I was going to come up to the NT and work when I graduated,” she says.

“They thought I was mad as there were very few jobs up here then and the chance of me getting one was slim but I stuck with it and did end up getting my first job in Katherine. After two years I left to travel and work overseas but after 18 months I was ready to come “home” and start my own practice, so have been here ever since.”

NT Vets Staff are always happy to assist with your pet’s needs.

Describing NT Vets as “one of the world’s largest vet practices geographically.” McMahon says there is no such thing as a typical day at NT Vets.

“It could mean seeing some kangaroos, snakes, cats and dogs in the clinic in the morning, doing surgery on horses or camels in the middle of the day, then driving 500kms out to a remote aboriginal community to run a health program there for the next week or so.”

She says since launching NT Vets a lot has changed.

“I opened with one vet (me) and a nurse, there were no computers, a clapped out old ute and the most sophisticated piece of equipment I had was an old second-hand x-ray machine that used film plates that we developed by hand in a dark room in kitty litter trays,” she laughs.

“Today we have 2 practices 1200kms apart that are fully computerised and completely integrated digitally. We have eight vets and seven nurses, five digital x-ray machines, two complete blood laboratories, numerous ultrasounds for everything from thorny devils to cattle, camels and horses, endoscopes, fluid pumps, operating theatres, a huge list of all modern equipment and a fleet of seven mostly new 4WD vehicles.”

Still, McMahon says attracting great staff is still a challenge.

“A lot of people want to come up and experience the NT but very few want to stay long term. Retaining good staff, vets and nurses are challenging.

Nonetheless, her passion to deliver world-class treatment for the pets and wildlife of the NT has never changed.

“I want to provide the highest quality care possible to the animals of remote Australia,” she says.

One thing is for sure when a day at work can mean anything from a trip on The Ghan to a visit with camels to checking out crocodiles at a local farm, McMahon has plenty to keep him on his toes.

“I’m never bored of in a dull routine,” she exclaims.

Northern Territory Vets was a recent finalist and winner at the Telstra Small Business Awards and McMahon tells KBB it was wonderful to receive recognition.

“And truly humbling, but the biggest thrill was the massive amount of pride it gave to the staff and clients.”

Find out more about NT Vets here.

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