New bill for veterinarians

Community service might become compulsory for newly qualified vets

The Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Amendment Bill aims to improve the quality services in the agriculture industry
The major development in the Veterinary and Para VeterinaryProfessions Amendment Bill is the introduction of compulsory community service by newly qualified veterinarians – a measure, which has been supported by the Veterinary Council, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, said in a recent media statement.
“It is correct that we should expect newly qualified vets to render a service to the country. It is also proper for us to provide them with opportunities to develop the practical experience they need for their own professional growth.”
Joemat-Pettersson added that "this will improve the delivery of veterinary services by regulating and managing the deployment of newly qualified professionals and address the skewed distribution of registered professionals."
According to the statement, the Bill also provides for a number of other technical aspects, including the registration of professionals (including foreign veterinarians and those who have completed the relevant qualifications), their continuing professional development, and the suspension of vets where necessary. It also regulates the appointment and powers of inspection officers and the investigation of complaints.
Regarding the introduction of Compulsory Community Service, South Africa currently has a shortage of veterinarians to serve agriculture and its related industries. The high migration rate of newly qualified veterinarians to overseas countries, and the skewed distribution of available veterinarians in favour of more urbanised areas continue to be a challenge.
In proposing Community Service, the department has noted the benefits that should accrue as well as the challenges that were experienced [and continue to be experienced] in other sectors. We are of the view that we have capitalised on this experience and have put in place adequate measures to mitigate the challenges. Community service will complement and improve the overall delivery of veterinary services in the country, and improve the health and welfare of human and animal population, according to the statement.
Joemat-Pettersson said, in preparation for implementation, the department consulted widely, and has called upon all stakeholders, members of the veterinary community, students, and the public in general, to participate in this consultative process so as to ensure that diverse views and opinions were captured. In addition, the Portfolio Committee has deliberated extensively on the matter, and held public hearings on the Bill.
The department is also dealing with the registration of a person who has completed the requirements for a qualification but where the degree has not been conferred, for various technical reasons. For example, institutions that offer prescribed qualifications that allow automatic registration in terms of the Act will only confer a diploma or degree once the student has complied with all the requirements, which includes payment of the tuition fees.
The proposed amendment will allow for the registration of a person who has completed the academic requirements for a diploma or degree to practice their profession upon receipt of clear indication from the institutions of the date of compliance with the academic requirements of the programme. This will allow a professional to immediately register for the profession and deliver a service, and to earn a salary, while making arrangements to fulfill other non-academic obligations such as payment of tuition fees.
“An amendment is included to provide for the continued registration of foreign veterinarians, or those with a foreign qualification, by attaining permanent residency in South Africa. This will have the same effect of allowing competent persons to serve the country, while any technical impediments are being dealt with. Also, an amendment on continuing professional development is also proposed to ensure that continuing education and training becomes a prerequisite for the continued registration of veterinarians and para-veterinary professionals,” the statement concludes.
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