Shortage of veterinarians affecting Sask. | CTV News


Saskatchewan faces a shortage of veterinarians and veterinary technicians like the rest of the country.

Statistics from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) show that 30% of veterinarians and 50% of veterinary technicians are in advanced stages of burnout.

“We feel it in urban areas like here in Regina, but we especially feel it in more rural areas and in large animal and food animal practice,” said Dr. Katelyn McIntyre, president of the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association (SVMA).

“We are seeing a record number of vacancies. Positions that have remained vacant for months or even years.

The shortage could mean longer wait times for patients or clinics could be forced to turn away new clients, McIntyre said.

The workforce is losing vets to retirement and mental health issues, while other vets are choosing to work only part-time, she said, adding that it’s a a balance between trying to train, recruiting and certifying new staff or internationally trained veterinarians.

“As an association, we are working very hard to find solutions to a complex problem,” said McIntyre.

Solutions could include increasing training spaces, streamlining the process for internationally trained applicants and offering telemedicine services to patients.

For now, McIntyre encourages pet and livestock owners to develop a good relationship with their veterinarian, be patient, and be prepared to book appointments ahead of time.

In a statement, Higher Education Minister Gordon Wyant said the government recognizes the demand for vets and veterinary technicians across the province.

He said the province has taken steps to close the gap, including increasing funding for Western College to provide 20 seats for Saskatchewan residents and implementing the Distance Veterinary Technology program at Saskatchewan. Polytechnic.

“Starting in fall 2022, three of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine’s 20 veterinary seats will be for students with a demonstrated likelihood of working in large animal and/or rural mixed animal practices,” its statement read.

The ministries of higher education and agriculture continue to work with the college and stakeholders to explore other solutions, he added.

CATTLE FARMERS FEEL THE IMPACT

The Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association (SCA) is concerned about the impact vet shortages are having on local ranchers.

Arnold Balicki, CAS president and cattle rancher near Shellbrook, Sask., said access to animal care has been difficult since his local clinic in Prince Albert shut down after-hours service and calls on weekend earlier this year.

While producers understand staff shortages and burnout issues, Balicki said farmers are forced to make tough decisions, especially during calving season when emergencies can arise.

“If we have a caesarean section or a calf that has diarrhea, we have to decide if we can take them to a clinic if they accept us, or we may have to euthanize them on the farm,” he said. .

“It’s not just an emotional thing because we love our animals, but it’s also a huge financial blow for us to do this to our animals.”

Balicki said the next closest veterinary clinic to him is two and a half hours away, adding that the distance between clinics is another barrier in rural Saskatchewan. He said if shortages and burnout persist, there are fears that some vets will turn to companion animals, leaving breeders with nowhere to go.

The SCA has been raising these concerns for about eight years, he said. The association is now lobbying the provincial government to do more to encourage students to go into veterinary medicine. They are also calling on the government to increase the number of places at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan.

Balicki said the government should expand its loan forgiveness program that encourages vets to work in large animal clinics.

“They are constantly in need. It’s like your family doctor, you want them to be there when you need them,” Balicki said.

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