The Government of British Columbia is permanently doubling the number of subsidized students who want to study at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatchewan.
With a provincial investment of $21.8M over three years, 40 students from BC will be able to pursue veterinary studies at WCVM and ultimately practice in BC. “Last year, we doubled the number of BC students funded to study veterinary medicine and today we are committing to continue this funding so more people receive quality training, and our pets and farm animals can get the health care they need,” said BC Minister of Postsecondary Education and Future Skills Selina Robinson.
No quick fix to B.C. veterinarian shortage, but plan to double vet school grads will help
Long drives, longer work days and a long list of patients are the life of B.C.’s rural veterinarians.
An 80-hour work week was the norm for Quinn Gavaga, who sold his vet clinic in Cache Creek two years ago in search of a better work/life balance. Gavaga and others in the agriculture industry applauded a provincial subsidy announced Thursday to double the number of seats for B.C. students at the Saskatchewan college that trains B.C. veterinarians — from 20 seats to 40 — but warned it’s not a quick fix for a provincewide vet shortage.
With no B.C. vet school, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatchewan has been training B.C. vets for five decades, along with students from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and, for many years until it opened its own college, Alberta.
The deficit between the number of new vets needed in B.C. and the 20 or so that graduate each year in Saskatchewan was made up by foreign-trained vets, said Gavaga. But COVID-19 disrupted immigration, making a chronic problem acute.
At the same time, federal government regulations aimed at reducing the use of antibiotics on farms began requiring a “client-vet” relationship. Small, remote operations that might have accessed medication on a walk-in basis suddenly required more vet care and time.
An economic impact study is underway to determine if B.C., like Alberta, should consider funding and establishing its own college, possibly at the University of Northern B.C.
Society of B.C. Veterinarians executive director Corey Van’t Haaf said the $21.8 million over three years announced will subsidize tuition for 20 additional B.C. students, meaning they’ll pay about $11,000 per year instead of $69,000.
Van’t Haaf said the society was “thrilled” to see the government responding to calls from vets, agriculture associations, animal rescues, farmers and pet owners to address the provincial vet shortage.