Manitoba adds five veterinary seats, cushioning shortage

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Manitoba has reached a new interprovincial agreement with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan to guarantee five additional seats for Manitoba, increasing the intake number from 15 to 20.

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Manitoba has reached a new interprovincial agreement with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan to guarantee five additional seats for Manitoba, increasing the intake number from 15 to 20.

Multiple animal clinics and hospitals confirmed to the Sun that there’s a shortage of veterinarians in the province, but they didn’t have time to elaborate due to their workload.

However, one veterinarian who is relatively new to Westman was able to comment. Dr. Grayson Ross, co-owner and veterinarian at Innovative Veterinary Services, said the increased seats at the veterinary college may not seem like much, but it is a significant investment, and the province needs every veterinarian it can get.

“When I graduated from WCVM in 2020, the seats for Manitoba were set at 15 and it’s been that way for as long as I’ve known,” Ross said, adding the five new positions at the college likely puts Manitoba on par with the number of spots in Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.

The province supports student veterinarians in many ways during their training, including partial funding of summer jobs, with a 75 per cent subsidy to the clinic they work in for the first summer, 50 per cent for the second and 25 per cent the third, Ross explained.

Specifically, large-animal veterinarians in rural areas are in high demand, especially in the livestock and equestrian industries, he said. Business has been brisk since he started Innovative Veterinary Services in August.

The large-animal veterinarian shortage has existed for years, he said, and while it means he spends many hours travelling, his clients are relieved to see a new vet in the area since many of the doctors already here are not taking on new clients.

“The workload isn’t a bad thing for me because anyone who goes into this knows what the job entails,” he said. “Many vet clinics have maxed out in this area, but we’ve been very warmly received in the whole Westman area because, for many, we are the only practice or clinic they can get into or taking new clients.”

Additional spaces to train veterinarians will help remedy the shortage in the long-term, said Dr. Keri Hudson-Reykdal, president of the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association. For the short-term, the association will work with government officials, veterinary professionals and other stakeholders to address the province’s veterinary shortage.

The seat expansion will start for the 2023-24 school year, and Manitoba will increase funding by $539,200, according to a provincial news release.

This move means, in time, the province will be supporting 80 students through the four-year program, said Jon Reyes, minister for advanced education, skills, and immigration.

“By increasing our annual intake to 20 students from 15, we will support more students to pursue this important career path in order to help build our province’s health-care capacity for years to come,” Reyes said.

Agriculture Minister Derek Johnson added his government is working to increase the availability of quality veterinary care to all Manitobans, especially for the agricultural sector that is so vital to the economy.

A new survey shows more than half of veterinary vacancies are in rural Manitoba, and around 23 of those vacancies are for large-animal vets, Johnson said.

According to Manitoba Pork, the veterinarian shortage is restricting growth in the hog sector. More seats guaranteed for Manitoba will help address this issue, allowing producers to raise healthy animals, said Rick Préjet, chair of Manitoba Pork.

“Today’s announcement will ensure that we can continue to close the gap in the necessary number of veterinarians practising in Manitoba, and that our sector can continue to sustainably grow our herds.”

» kmckinley@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @karenleighmcki1

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