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Report urges more vets for rural Manitoba

“People say they’re 100 per cent behind the system we have. Just make it work.”

– Neil Hathaway, Task Force Member

A provincial task force recommends continuing Manitoba’s existing rural veterinary service districts but urges greater efforts to attract more qualified staff to them.

That could include making it easier for immigrant veterinarians to practise here and letting technicians do some of the work veterinarians presently do.

Finding ways to attract more veterinarians to rural areas was a major challenge for the veterinary services task force formed by Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives Minister Rosann Wowchuk in August 2007.

The task force consulted with industry groups and held five public meetings in March 2008. It found the provincial/municipal partnership model for district vet clinics worked well and recommended it continue.

People seemed generally satisfied with the province’s regional veterinary service system established

in 1970. But concern about the chronic shortage of rural veterinarians was widespread, said task force member Neil Hathaway.

“I don’t think anybody believes it’s broken,” said Hathaway, who represented the Veterinary Services Commission on the three-person task force. “People say they’re 100 per cent behind the system we have. Just make it work.”

Improving services for Manitoba’s 27 veterinary service district clinics took up 17 of the 33 recommendations in the 25-page report released by MAFRI last week.

The report recommended evaluating the number of spaces

available for Manitoba students at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon. Currently, Manitoba’s quota at the school is 15 first-year students after two first-year spaces were added last fall. There are 13 spots for the remaining three years.

The report also urged more provincial funding for veterinary training. Wowchuk, speaking at Ag Days in Brandon last week, said the province increased its funding to the Saskatoon vet college by over $300,000 to cover the cost of the two additional students.

Other recommendations about attracting more veterinary practitioners to rural Manitoba included enhanced scholarships, more immigrant vets and expanded responsibilities for veterinary technicians.

The report also recommended increased programs for animal disease control, proper drug usage for animal health and increased funding for Manitoba’s veterinary diagnostic services laboratory in Winnipeg.

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