Three of Saskatchewan's seats in the WCVM's veterinary program will be prioritized for students who are more likely to practise in rural communities. Photo: Christina Weese.

Saskatchewan enhances support for rural veterinary services

The Government of Saskatchewan is introducing a number of initiatives to enhance the availability of veterinary services in rural Saskatchewan.

These measures include the development of a new virtual option to train registered veterinary technologists in rural and remote Saskatchewan, as well as a loan forgiveness program that will be offered to new veterinary and veterinary technology graduates who practise in rural or remote areas of the province.

Beginning in the fall of 2021, Saskatchewan Polytechnic's two-year registered veterinary technologist program will give students the opportunity to begin their studies remotely and complete the program at a partnering clinical practice with local veterinarians in rural areas.

"This program is important to addressing a labour market shortage in rural Saskatchewan," said Gene Makowsky, Saskatchewan's minister of Advanced Education. "We are pleased to work alongside Saskatchewan Polytechnic to ensure we are able to meet the growing demand now and into the future."

In 2021-22, the Ministry of Advanced Education is providing $687,000 for development and operating costs. In addition, veterinarians and veterinary technologists who work in rural and remote communities for up to five years will have up to $20,000 of their Saskatchewan Student Loans forgiven.

"Veterinarians and veterinary technologists play an integral role in protecting the health and productivity of Saskatchewan's livestock herd," said David Marit, minister of Saskatchewan Agriculture. "The measures announced today will ensure producers have access to their important services which will help achieve our Growth Plan goal of increasing livestock cash receipts to $3 billion by 2030."

"This made-in-Saskatchewan solution will provide a timely solution to meet the needs of rural students and producers," said Larry Rosia, president and CEO of Saskatchewan Polytechnic. "We are pleased that because of our history of successfully serving students, we have been asked to develop a remote-delivery program to train and hire locally registered veterinary technologists."

"The Saskatchewan Cattlemen's Association has been talking about the challenge of diminished rural veterinary services for years," said Arnold Balicki, chair of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen's Association. 

"One step we took is the preceptorship partnership with Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association to help third-year students try out practices in rural Saskatchewan. The steps the government is taking today are very welcome in ensuring cattle producers have access to veterinary services across Saskatchewan.  This is so important to animal health and welfare and public good as our animal health status is connected to our overall health."

As well, three of the 20 seats at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) funded by the Government of Saskatchewan will prioritize admission of students who are more likely to work in a large animal and/or rural mixed animal practice.

"Our veterinary graduates' unique training and skills are in high demand in rural Saskatchewan," said Dr. Gillian Muir, interim dean of the WCVM. "The provincial government's move to target three rural-oriented seats will help encourage even more of our veterinary graduates to choose agriculture-focused veterinary careers."

As part of this strategy, the Ministry of Agriculture reaffirms its continued annual support for the provincial Mentorship Program, targeting senior veterinary students, in partnership with the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association.

Click here to view the original news release.