British Columbia urgently needs more veterinarians and the industry regulator is sounding the alarm about the mental health impact of heavy workloads on those currently trying to respond to the growing demand for their services.
According to the College of Veterinarians of BC, the shortage is expected to continue for years depending on the expected number of new graduates versus those leaving the profession.
Many practicing vets say they’re already overworked – and with high suicide rates in the profession, the college is concerned.
“We’re running out of 100 vets a year for the next five years, and we’re only graduating 20 from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine,” said Michele Martins, vice president of the college board.
There are only five veterinary schools in Canada and only 20 places are currently available for residents of British Columbia at Western College, located in Saskatoon. The only other school west of Ontario, Quebec or the Atlantic region is in Alberta and only Albertans can attend this one.
Martins says one way to help increase the number of veterinarians in that province would be to provide funds to add 20 more seats for BC residents at Western College.
More colleagues would be a welcome relief for Marco Veenis, a Kelowna, BC-based veterinarian who has worked for three decades.
He said he saw over 40 patients a day, worked shifts longer than 10 hours and was no longer able to meet the daily appointment slots he had voluntarily left open for emergencies.
The pandemic has increased its workload, he said, but the shortage of trained vets is what is straining the system more than anything else.
“There are more vets leaving the profession right now than they are entering the profession,” Veenis said, speaking on CBC’s Thursday. The first edition.
Veenis said he has seen new graduates entering the workforce “really struggle” with the emotional demands of the job. He said many are also burdened with student debt and are trying to balance the responsibility of starting or raising a family.
“We’re seeing an appallingly high suicide rate, which of course is a big deal for our industry,” Veenis said.
According to a study released last year by the Ontario Veterinary College, more than a quarter of Canadian veterinarians have reported suicidal thoughts in the past 12 months.
The pandemic adds to the burden on the veterinary community.
Many Canadians became new pet owners during the pandemic, increasing the demand for animal care, while at the same time, health and safety protocols meant clinics made patients move more slowly and sometimes had to. close completely if there were exposures to COVID-19.
Veenis said he is one of about 1,800 vets in private practice in the province and they could easily use another 150 to 200 vets right now.
“There just aren’t enough of us and the problem is getting worse,” he said.
9:33Shortage of veterinarians
If you are thinking about suicide, if you are worried about a friend or loved one, the Canadian Suicide Prevention Service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Their number is 1.833.456.4566