Though pleased with Australia’s performance in the recent World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) review of the country’s veterinary services, the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) believe the data shows “room for improvement.”
The missing link, according to AVA president Dr Robert Johnson, is a lack of government vets that could help curb the seriousness of a biosecurity emergency.
“While the report highlights Australia’s commitment to biosecurity, it also raises concerns about our ability to manage a disease emergency with the current veterinary staffing levels,” he said.
Dr Guy Weerasinghe former president of the AVA public health group and AVA spokesperson agreed and confirmed that this was not a new development but an alarming trend that could leave Australia at risk of a dangerous biosecurity breach.
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“The AVA’s workforce modelling report, which was released last year, showed that Australia is already heading towards a significant undersupply of government vets,” said Dr Weerasinghe.
“The OIE report confirms this as it also identifies a steady decrease in staffing levels over the past few years.
“The Australian Government has been taking positive steps to increase its veterinary workforce over the last year, and we applaud this commitment. It’s important that they continue to invest in the development and retention of their veterinary staff so that valuable expertise is not lost.
“However, it’s now time for state and territory governments to also step up their commitment to providing adequate veterinary support to our all-important agricultural industries. The report emphasises that ‘staffing levels are reaching a critical point’ in some jurisdictions, and this will impact on our ability to respond to an emergency animal disease.
“In fact, the report sounds some serious alarm bells and states that resources are stretched so thinly that there are concerns about the ability to handle a sudden increase in demand due to a disease emergency.”