In April, the “Times” wrote about the plight of veterinarians (“vets”), of whom there are too few in rural areas.
It appears that one of the major reasons for their not showing willingness to work in “the bush” is the treatment that governments offer them, in comparison with their willingness in other medical professions.
It almost seems that differentiation is made between the people who look after human beings and those whose first concern is the animal kingdom. Where are politicians from the Animal Justice Party when they are needed?
Specifically, the question was raised about the availability of the HECS-Help program to the medical profession, with the exception of veterinarians. For those people working in the country (but not for vets), this program provides for the forgiving of the HECS debt, which is considerable and unavoidably incurred when the university course is under way.
The previous report said that the federal government will not take action in this field before a review in the second half of 2025. Instead of waiting for Canberra to react practically to the shortage, a state government is now going to have the matter investigated by a parliamentary inquiry.
The Veterinary Association has welcomed the inquiry, and that the state government of New South Wales is taking the issue into its own hands rather than expecting the federal government to help. In particular, the Association’s president says that the federal government is not convinced that offering HECS forgiveness works.
The president, having in mind that the recent survey has shown that almost all current vet students are prepared to move to the country rather than pay the $80,000 or so in HECS fees, is calling on the state government to offer students relief in exchange for relocating to crisis areas.
Referring to our earlier comment, we are pleased to note that the vice-chair of the inquiry is expected to be a person from the Animal Justice Party who is a member of the state parliament.
In accepting the position, she has mentioned that vets have a high suicide rate, and that the cost of basic care of animals is not accessible to most families.
The NSW government’s action is emphasised by the closure of an existing country practice (in Wee Waa).The vet there fears that he is letting the community down, but he has no choice in view of the lack of successors.
It is to be hoped that the Victorian government will follow the New South Wales example.
This article appeared in The Buloke Times, 14 July 2023.