Canadian veterinarian shortage worse in rural areas

Federal government should accept internationally trained personnel

Ottawa-The federal government needs to take urgent action to deal with a shortage of veterinarians and related workers that threatens both animal and public health in the country, says the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA).

The government should make additional investments in programs, projects and veterinary infrastructure as well as supporting the mental health of all veterinary professionals and paraprofessionals, CVMA President Dr. Trevor Lawson told a news conference.

“Veterinary medicine supports animal health and welfare, public health and a healthy environment which together are foundational for the health of Canadians and the Canadian economy,” Lawson said. “Given the severe workforce shortage in our profession, Canada needs a veterinary workforce enhancement program that supports expansion and innovation of clinical teaching, training, and research to develop the next generation of veterinarians in response to societal demands.”

The federal Canadian Occupation Project System shows the labour market supply of veterinarians is in a structural deficit expected to last until at least until 2031.

The existing workforce shortage poses a significant threat to the veterinary profession and its ability to provide quality care for its patients and clients, Lawson added. “The shortage can be addressed by recruiting and onboarding foreign-trained veterinarians (FTVs) and establishing a national testing centre for internationally educated veterinarians, and by ensuring there are dedicated funds to support veterinary infrastructure.”

Burnout in the form of high exhaustion, high depersonalization, and low professional efficacy has become a major problem in the existing veterinary workforce with 89.2 per cent of practitioners reporting they suffer from burnout. The problem is greater in rural areas where both farm animals and companion animals need care. That situation could impact Canada’s ability to export some agricultural products.

Joel Neuheimer, CEO of the CVMA, said the federal government could do a lot more to help with the situation by showing more leadership in tackling the issues related to the shortage.

“It is imperative that Canada addresses this challenge urgently and comprehensively,” he said. “Practice owners and employers are struggling to hire and retain veterinary professionals and paraprofessionals, which raises concerns about maintaining the highest standards of care.”

The CVMA represents over 25,000 veterinarians and registered technicians and technologists who provide vital care and services for millions of clients including small and large animals across Canada.

The CVMA has collaborated with MNP LLP to generate a report which indicates that in 2022-23, veterinary practices of all types generated $15.7 billion in total economic output; $8.9 billion in total GDP; $1.7 billion in total revenue for municipalities, provinces and the federal government; and more than 75,000 full-time equivalent jobs for Canadians.

Lawson said the findings presents clear evidence that the veterinary profession contributes substantially to Canada’s economy.

This news article was prepared for National Newswatch