Although a shortage of health-care workers in Manitoba is a regular news item in recent years, the province’s human residents aren’t the only ones suffering — the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA) says there’s a shortage of animal health practitioners as well.
“It’s unfortunately been going on for a number of years in the province and probably across North America … but it’s really come to a head with COVID,” the MVMA’s Dr. Erika Anseeuw told Global News.
Anseeuw said it was initially rural and large animal practices that were having difficulty attracting vets, but that has since expanded to job openings across all facets of the industry — exacerbated by closures due to the pandemic.
“We were not able to see as many clients and not as many pets, and a number of people (during the pandemic) got new pets, and so the demand has expanded,” she said.
“The animals still need to be seen, both for preventative health exams as well as emergencies, so as a result the existing veterinarians, as well as support staff and animal health technologists, were just working longer hours. Some of the clients, unfortunately, were getting a bit stressed out with waiting to see the veterinarians.”
That stress has extended to doctors and staff as well, with many clinics, Anseeuw said, reducing the number of hours available for appointments just to give their employees a break.
“We’re all pretty tense at work, unfortunately,” she said. “We really enjoy our jobs but there’s a lot of extra stresses.”
Anseeuw said it’s not a situation that has an easy fix, unfortunately for pet owners and veterinarians alike.
While training more doctors is a start, it’s still a four-year wait until they join the workforce. The MVMA’s national counterpart is looking at better recruitment and fast-tracking of veterinarians moving to Canada from other countries, but as Anseeuw said, that’s also a waiting game.
“Things aren’t going in a positive direction.”
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