6 Oct 2021

Vet labour shortage at crisis point, recruitment agency says

12:04 pm on 6 October 2021

Some vet clinics around the country are closing down - because they can't get enough staff - a recruiter says.

Veterinarian doctor is making a check up of a cute beautiful cat.

File image. Photo: 123RF

In June the government announced 50 general practice vets would be allowed to enter the country with a border exception - to help with the labour shortage.

But The New Zealand Veterinary Association says only two have arrived - a further 11 are waiting for a spot in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ).

Chief executive Kevin Bryant said they were hearing from overseas vets that they were reluctant to start the visa process due to the delays they are seeing with the MIQ process.

"We are confident that had MIQ spaces been available, these spaces would have been filled," Bryant said.

He welcomed the government's announcement of a resident pathway visa.

"We hope that this new visa will encourage veterinarians to stay in New Zealand. We are aware of a couple of veterinarians whose families were not initially able to join them in New Zealand.

"This new pathway allows for families to be reunited and work towards a new life in New Zealand."

Julie South of vet recruitment agency Vetstaff said the labour shortage had reached crisis point.

"Some clinics are having to close hopefully temporarily, because they can't find enough vets to staff them," South said.

"I have heard stories of some clinics not being able to meet their after hours requirements in some of the smaller centres because they are just overworked and overstressed and overtired, which means, that animal and human welfare is compromised."

South said she knew of 10 clinics that had to close down, and that led her starting a petition calling on the government to allocate two spots in MIQ each week for vets.

Overseas vets trying to move here =were reaching out for help, she said.

"I'm in contact with quiet a few, I do know of one that was lucky last week and managed to get a spot in MIQ and now we're just waiting for Immigration New Zealand to approve her visa, but the problem is we're hearing the visa is taking six weeks, so if they don't tick off on her visa quickly she won't be able to get here.

"I am hearing from vets overseas that they think it's a laughing joke, that New Zealand is a bit of a laughingstock internationally, and they are very frustrated."

South said New Zealand needed migrant vets as we did not produce enough through the education system here.

"Massey University produces around 100 graduates every year, that's not enough.

"Around 30 percent of registered vets in New Zealand are from overseas, that's around 800 at any one time, we still need vets to come here and do their OE - I get that's probably contentious given that we're in a Covid situation but we need more staff because we are short and vets that are here are getting burnt out because they're working around the clock.

"Vets are stressed, farmers are stressed, nurses are stressed. Everybody working in a vet clinic right now is stressed to the max."

Massey University head of school of veterinary science professor Jon Huxley said the university could only accept 100 students a year as they were limited by the Tertiary Education Commission.

"We currently select 100 domestic students and 25-30 full fee paying international students, currently the limit is 100 students per year. We are not allowed to accept extra students over the cap.

"We would be delighted to train larger numbers of students and that is an ongoing conversation with government but unfortunately this is not a short term fix. It takes five years to train a vet, so any changes to our student intake which occur today would not graduate until 2027."