BC veterinarians are calling on advanced education, skills and training minister Melanie Mark to step up and fund 20 seats at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon to address the province’s shortage of vets.
The additional seats would give BC a total of 40 places at the college, which has a mandate to serve BC students (and those from the other three western provinces). A report to the province, submitted in May, identified an annual shortage of 100 veterinarians in BC.
The seats became available after Alberta relinquished them in favour of expanding its own school. The opportunity to claim the seats runs out December 31. Agriculture minister Lana Popham, under whose ministry the province’s chief veterinary officer operates, supports securing the seats
“We are almost at the deadline,” says Dr. Al Longair, president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association-Society of BC Veterinarians chapter in a series of press releases over the past week raising awareness of the issue. “[Mark] is delaying until it’s too late. She has all the information she needs to make the humane and correct decision.”
Corey Van’t Haaff, executive director of the chapter, says the shortage is acute. The college graduated 21 students from BC in 2019, more than half of which went to large animal practices. A significant number of the graduates went to northern BC.
But this still hasn’t stopped some veterinarians from putting in long hours, especially in more remote locales.
“If we do not have enough veterinarians, it will jeopardize our access to safe products of animal origin,” Van’t Haaff says. “Plus, because veterinarians now must write prescriptions for antimicrobials, a shortage of veterinarians means less timely access to antibiotics for farmers.”
CVMA-Society of BC Veterinarians is calling for the release of the report the province received in May documenting the shortage of vets and, more important, for BC to claim the seats available to it at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine by the end of the year.