Sask. announces steps to attract rural vets

The Saskatchewan government has recognized the concern about the lack of rural veterinary service and introduced several measures designed to entice more people to rural practice.

These include a new virtual option to train registered veterinary technologists and a loan forgiveness program.

“This program is important to addressing a labour market shortage in rural Saskatchewan,” said advanced education minister Gene Makowsky.

In this fiscal year, his ministry will provide $687,000 to develop and operate a new virtual course at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. The course will be available this fall for students enrolled in the two-year RVT program. They can begin the course online and complete it with a participating local rural practice.

The government is also offering Saskatchewan Student Loan forgiveness of up to $20,000 for veterinarians and technologists who work in rural or remote areas for five years.

Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association president Arnold Balicki said the organization has for years talked about the challenge of recruiting and retaining veterinary services.

“One step we took is the preceptorship with Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association to help third year students try out practices in rural Saskatchewan,” Balicki said. “The steps the government is taking today are very welcome in ensuring cattle producers have access to veterinary services across Saskatchewan. This is so important to animal health and welfare and public good as our animal health status is connected to our overall health.”

The Western College of Veterinary Medicine has agreed to target three of 20 seats funded by the provincial government for students who are more likely to work in a large animal or mixed rural practice.

Interim dean Gillian Muir said the skills of WCVM graduates are in high demand in rural areas and this would encourage more to choose agriculture-focused veterinary medicine.

The provincial agriculture ministry, in partnership with the SVMA, has continued its support for the mentorship program that targets senior veterinary students.

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