New veterinary care program to increase services to rural, remote Manitoba communities

A new program helping deliver veterinary care in Manitoba’s rural and remote communities has been unleashed.

The Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA), alongside the Winnipeg Humane Society and Government of Manitoba, have launched the Limited Access Vaccinator Program (LAVP) in an effort to address a provincial vet shortage.

“Access to (veterinary) care has been an ongoing issue, and so our guiding body, our council, really set us to work on this project to help alleviate some of the issues with access to care,” said Corey Wilson, executive director and registrar for the MVMA.

He said LAVP will see “designated vaccinators” — registered veterinary technologists and trained community members — deliver select veterinary services. In a press release, the association said this includes vaccinations, giving non-prescription de-worming medication, administering microchips, and giving over-the-counter medication.

“Literature has shown us that when we have people within our own communities providing our own services, those programs tend to be much more sustainable,” Wilson said. “In our current model, we have people flying in to provide these services, which means a lot of areas that don’t receive service, or they don’t receive ongoing service.”

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Designated vaccinators will be virtually supervised by veterinarians to ensure safe and effective care, Wilson said, adding “once (the veterinarian is) confident in the limited access vaccinator’s skills, that limited access vaccinator is able to perform them without the sponsoring veterinarian present.” However, he said the vet will need to be accessible by phone whenever a vaccine is administered — just in case.

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Right now, Wilson said the MVMA council is looking at the qualifications it expects designated vaccinators to have. So far, “it’s a two-piece component. There’s an educational component, and then it’s going to be left to the veterinarians’ professional discretion to see how long they need to be supervising someone,” he said.

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People with experience in health care would make easy transitions into the role — but it’s by no means a mandatory background, Wilson said. “We believe that our veterinarians should be able to work with a wide range of people to ensure that they’re able to provide that service.”

However, he said that designated vaccinators are not able to provide all the same services that veterinarians offer.

“They’re not able to diagnose for any types of issues that your animal might be facing, and their training will really solely be limited to vaccine administration and attempting to manage any type of adverse reaction,” Wilson said.

The MVMA said the LAVP will not just boost pet health, but also community health and public safety.

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“In many remote communities facing limited veterinary care, dogs are assumed to be unvaccinated,” a factsheet provided by the association says. This means that people often get treatment for rabies right after getting bit by a dog, “only discontinuing treatment when dogs test negative,” the factsheet said, adding once symptoms set in for rabies, it is 100 per cent fatal.

By vaccinating dogs, it said fewer people will need to seek rabies treatment, “and fewer dogs will be euthanized for rabies testing.”

Wilson said other diseases, like parvovirus or distemper can wipe out the majority of pets if they are unvaccinated, leaving emotional wreckage.

The LAVP is slated to start on June 1 this year.

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