Will immigration solve veterinarian shortages?

Veterinarians are included in a list of prioritised skilled migrants by the Department of Home Affairs, which will grant urgent processing to the profession. 

The Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) recognises 19 critical occupations needed to assist Australia’s economic recovery amid the global pandemic, with vets joined by others including GPs, nurses, software engineers, psychiatrists and social workers. 

The PMSOL follows the pandemic ‘puppy boom’, on top of Australia’s traditionally high rates of pet ownership.  

AVA President Warwick Vale told RN that while he welcomes the PMSOL, the shortage is a worldwide problem, and he is not anticipating an international influx to fill a local industry gap of at least 800 vets. 

“We actually have to look at what our business model is and make the profession more sustainable for our colleagues, especially the younger ones that are entering the profession,” he said. 

“What we’d need to do is … change the workplace practices such that our employed veterinarians and business owners who also are not finding their business sustainable can [continue], and that’s a whole quantum change of thinking of how we deliver services.” 

Vale said the industry is calling for subsidies such as the waiving of HECS for vets to live and work in rural and regional areas, rebates on pet insurance and the elimination of GST from vet bills. 

“We’ve been suffering a workforce shortage for quite a few years now in country and regional areas,” he said. 

“There’s been a massive increase in demand for veterinary services now for the companion animal space … and that’s increasing the demand in city and metropolitan practices and now we have a shortfall there. 

“Veterinarians are just working incredibly long hours day after day at the coalface of delivering veterinary services in country and regional and in city practices; that’s a major concern.” 

SAM WORRAD

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