Keeping rural vets a priority

Neil Versavel is a throwback to a different era.

Versavel runs a large animal and small animal vet clinic near Balmoral, Man. with his dad, Luc.

The mixed practice means Versavel has small animal appointments during the day. At night and on weekends he’s on call for large animal emergencies.

As a result, there are times when Versavel works 60 to 80 hours a week to keep up with demand.

Versavel likes being busy but many young vets aren’t interested in 12 to 14 hour workdays or servicing clients with cattle or horses.

Paul Schneider, a vet and industry consultant in Manitoba, said lifestyle may be the number one priority for young vets.

Schneider is chairing a Manitoba government task force studying the sustainability of rural vet services.

This summer and fall the three-person task force met with livestock producer groups, vet associations and vet technologists. In October they heard directly from Manitobans at public forums.

Merv Starzyk, a task force member and retired farmer from Shoal Lake, Man., said vet services haven’t reached a crisis in rural Manitoba. Still, people are worried about current trends.

Schneider said vets, maybe 20 or 30 years ago, often worked alone in small, rural practices. But recent graduates are no longer attracted to that sort of veterinary work.

“Young vets coming on stream, they’re reluctant to go out on their own right away. They like some guidance and mentorship,” Schneider said.

The task force is still in the listening phase, but amalgamating small, rural vet clinics into larger operations might be a possible recommendation.

The province is expected to make recommendations on rural vet services early in 2016.

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