Gympie Veterinary Services vet Shannon Coyne.
Gympie Veterinary Services vet Shannon Coyne. Renee Albrecht

Stress, fatigue of on-call make getting vets to Gympie hard

ONE of Gympie's leading veterinarians has backed comments that the huge pressures of being a vet in rural and regional Australia is driving people out of the industry and threatening its future.

Earlier this week, Lincoln Institute co-director Dr Michael Powell called for a shake-up of the industry, which he said was rife with stress, low wages and the pressures of after hours services.

Dr Powell said nearly 90 per cent of veterinary business owners and managers surveyed as part of a recent industry Think Tank initiated by the Lincoln Institute reported unprecedented difficulty filling vet vacancies.

About 41 per cent waited longer than six months to fill positions and 18 per cent waited up to two years or more to find new vets to work in their clinics. The Animal Emergency Centre in Noosaville was reportedly forced to close twice in the last year due to having a lack of staff to fill shifts.

Dr Shannon Coyne of Gympie and District Veterinarian Services said he generally agreed with Dr Powell.

"Like all rural and regional areas we find it difficult to get vets who will work with on-call,” he said.

"Having vets on call can lead to huge fatigue and stress issues that vets in areas with after hours clinics do not have.

"Very few vets would not know a colleague who hasn't committed suicide, so rightfully it is a major focus in the profession at this time.”

Dr Coyne said these issues applied to all staff, not just vets.

"Nurses and receptionists face the same problems and should not be forgotten in this,” he said.

The vet shortage for clinical practices is real and widespread and impacting on business owners, managers and teams, Dr Powell said.

"As opposed to this being due to an inadequate supply of graduates, it would appear what is driving the shortage is a serious upswing in attrition of vets from the industry.”

Dr Powell said pet owners also needed to adjust their expectations of vets.

"Being a vet is a tremendous and fulfilling profession, but if we reflect on the attrition crisis, unfortunately a lot of the current challenge comes back to money,” Dr Powell said.

According to Lincoln Institute, vets are four times more likely to commit suicide than others - double the rate of doctors, pharmacists, dentists and nurses. A vet's opening salary averages at $50,563.

Despite years of study and a high-level of technical skills, Dr Powell said current salaries weren't good enough.

"With one of the lowest starting salaries of Australia's main professions, we know that remuneration is not a primary motivator for people choosing a career as a vet,” Dr Powell said.

"Once the reality of the profession kicks in... many vets say they feel it's just not worth it and decide to move on.”

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