The Manitoba government will top up funding to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan to cover the cost of two more first-year spots at the school.
The province’s pledge, announced Tuesday at Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon, is part of the province’s initial response to the release of the final report by its veterinary services task force.
Among the task force’s recommendations was for the province to “continuously (evaluate) the appropriate number of spaces available for Manitoba students” at the WCVM in Saskatoon.
The province said Tuesday it will add more than $330,000 to its current funding of $3.9 million to cover the added first-year spots and to cover “recent increases in the cost of programming.”
For 2008-09, the province’s advanced education department will fund 15 first-year students and 13 in each of years two, three and four. As the 15 first-years move through the program, the number of seats will increase to 15 in each of the four years. The cost per seat in the 2007-08 school year is more than $74,000.
“The health of food, companion and laboratory animals as well as wildlife depends on having enough veterinarians available to provide medical services and advice in a timely manner,” Advanced Education Minister Diane McGifford said in the province’s release.
“We need more veterinarians because, with any disease, the most important factors are early detection and response,” Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk said. “We know disease surveillance by well-trained veterinarians is important to our provincial economy in helping to meet the requirements of our export customers for livestock and livestock products.”
The veterinary task force was chaired by livestock producer Ron Kostyshyn of Ethelbert, Man., and including veterinarian Dr. Paul Schneider of St. Pierre Jolys and Veterinary Services Commission representative Neil Hathaway of Deloraine.
The task force was set up last February to assess the distribution and demand for veterinary services as well as the systems now in place for early warning and surveillance of both local and foreign animal diseases. Among its recommendations are:
- building on and expanding scholarship programs to promote and encourage more new graduates to work in rural Manitoba;
- providing a comprehensive program, with the provincial ag department’s lead, to improve animal and public health and the safety of food products;
- developing programs for surveillance, traceability and prevention of zoonotic and other animal diseases;
- consulting with the Manitoba Veterinary Association on the proper storage, dispensing and use of drugs to ensure the safety of both animals and people;
- more funding to the office of the chief veterinary officer, to support not just investigation and prosecution of animal neglect and abuse, but also prevention; and
- more funding to the Veterinary Diagnostic Services Laboratory to ensure it meets industry needs.
The province will work with the Veterinary Services Commission, Manitoba
Veterinary Medical Association and commodity groups “to advance
the recommendations made in the report,” Wowchuk said.