More vets needed before 'Veticare' scheme

·2-min read

More needs to be done to address Victoria's critical vet shortages before a publicly funded healthcare model for animals is introduced in the state, a peak veterinarian body says.

Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick's "Veticare" motion, introduced to Victoria's upper house on Tuesday, will mirror the Medicare system by providing free or subsidised vet care for eligible animals.

The proposed model will also establish a network of public clinics and specialised wildlife hospitals, and support vet nurses to become nurse practitioners.

Veticare would relieve the pressure on vets, who were expected to manage injured or displaced wildlife brought in by the public on top of paying clients, Mr Meddick said.

The Western Victoria MP conceded he didn't know how much the scheme would cost.

"It's not really about how much it's going to cost to implement but what it will cost if we don't do this preventative measure," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"If we continue to go down the path we're going down, in just a few short years it will cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, to reinvest in the sector and to bring it up to scratch."

Australian Veterinary Association president Bronwyn Orr welcomed the proposal but said there were other issues that needed to be addressed first.

"It's all fair and good to have subsidised veterinary care but you actually need to have the veterinarians in place to do that," she told AAP.

"There's not been enough investment in the profession and it's leading to some rural and regional places actually not having any vets at all.

"If you have subsidised vet care, it's not much use if you can't actually get in to see a vet."

There needed to be incentives like reducing student debt for new graduates to ensure vets were located across the state, Dr Orr said.

Mr Meddick's plan to support vet nurses to become nurse practitioners would also take some time, she said.

"Currently veterinary nursing is not even a standardised regulated profession," Dr Orr said.

"We're really supportive of getting nurses credentialised and registered. That's the first step."

When asked if the government would support the motion, a spokesperson said animal welfare was a priority and it is currently drafting new legislation to replace the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.

"Animals play an important role in the lives of so many Victorians, and we're consulting with community and farmers to ensure we get the reforms right," they said.

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