86% of vets against veterinary ownership rule changes

A total of 86% of Veterinary Ireland members are against changes to the Codes of Professional Conduct relating to the ownership of veterinary practices, a new survey has revealed.

The Veterinary Ireland survey includes responses from 32% of its 1,470 members – this figure is considered a standard response rate, according to the representative body for veterinary surgeons in Ireland.

The survey was conducted due to concerns that the code changes would allow non-vets and multinational venture capitalist corporations to buy and operate veterinary practices in Ireland.

Veterinary Ireland claims such a move could potentially lead to a reduction in services nationwide.

According to the survey findings 86% of respondents are opposed to “open incorporation”.

Also Read: Veterinary Council confirms rule changes to ownership of practices

The council previously confirmed that it reviewed ownership of veterinary practices late last year – following queries received from stakeholders.

In a statement to AgriLand the council said: “The council took legal advice and it is of the considered opinion that there is no prohibition on a non-registered person, non-registered persons or a body corporate owning a veterinary business, including a veterinary practice – providing the practice of veterinary medicine, as defined by section 53 of the Veterinary Practice 2005, as amended, is carried out at all times by a registered person.

“The certificate of suitability for a veterinary premises can only be held in the name of a registered person.

This clarification to the codes was agreed by the council on December 14, 2017, and published in the codes on the same date.

These developments were met with apprehension from the farming community and Veterinary Ireland – who stated that a consultation process should have taken place on the issue before a decision was made by the council.

It is feared that veterinary services currently provided to Irish farmers could be curtailed if non-vets are allowed to own veterinary practices.

Next step

A delegation from Veterinary Ireland recently met with senior officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to discuss the topic.

A meeting with Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed was also sought; but, as yet, has not taken place.

A spokesperson for the department told AgriLand: “The minister is aware of the recent clarification issued by the Veterinary Council of Ireland regarding ownership of veterinary practices and concerns expressed by some bodies in this regard.

“The position is that the Veterinary Council of Ireland is the statutory body established under the Veterinary Practices Act 2005 to regulate the veterinary professions.

The provision of a comprehensive and professional veterinary service is vital to the agri-food and farming sector. Department officials have been engaging with a number of parties who have expressed concerns as to the possible impact of this clarification on such service.

As it stands, Veterinary Ireland is awaiting a response from the council before it takes its next step. It is understood that the council will meet early next week.