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Wiggles Strike A Sour Note With Veterinarians

Saturday 24 April marks World Veterinary Day and this
year New Zealand veterinarians find themselves facing
another year of significant stress and challenging

There are many reasons for this including
the fact that veterinarians were classified as essential
workers during the COVID 19 lockdown often working under
extreme conditions which added to the stress they were
already suffering due to an often physically and emotionally
demanding job.

“Part of what contributes to
veterinarians’ emotional loads is wanting to do the very
best we can for our patients – with a number of constraints.
We know animals are sentient beings and have feelings like
humans – including pain and distress when things go wrong,
as pets age, or accidents happen. We all want to keep them
happy and healthy – and we need to achieve this in an
unsubsidised veterinary care system. Those challenging
situations, including when euthanasia needs to be included
in the conversation, are difficult, and cumulative for
veterinarians. Two things that help enormously, are pet
insurance, and being kind and compassionate to your
veterinarian – we are affected by your trauma too,” says
Helen Beattie, chief veterinary officer, for the New Zealand
Veterinary Association.

Adding to the pressure is the
long- term critical shortage of veterinarians that was
exacerbated by the border closures that prevented overseas
veterinarians entering the country to help alleviate the
shortage. In September last year, the government announced
an exemption for 30 veterinarians to come to New Zealand –
there is a requirement for at least 50 more and these
vacancies cannot be filled using the provisions of the long-
term critical visa category.

“The New Zealand
Veterinary Association (NZVA) is concerned that despite
considered representations to government that there has been
no movement on this issue, so recent exemptions, including
enabling the Wiggles to travel here struck a sour note with
our members,” says Kevin Bryant, NZVA chief

“We have consistently pointed out to
Ministers of Immigration and Agriculture the implications of
their inaction which include poor mental and physical health
for veterinarians, impacts on primary sector production,
animal welfare implications, impacts on farmers’ mental
health when they can’t get the advice they need, impacts
on biosecurity, surveillance and food safety and
implications for pet owners when they can’t access
essential services such as neutering.”

The NZVA is
hopeful that the government may revise its position and
provide an additional exemption for 50 more


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