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Ensuring economic sustainability
Ensuring economic sustainability is one of the AVA's five strategic priorities.
The future health and prosperity of the veterinary profession rely on a range of macro and micro-economic circumstances.
- Australia’s economic outlook
- Operating environment for small business
- Veterinary remuneration
- Demand for veterinary services
- Profitability of private veterinary practices
- Economic viability of animal industries such as agribusiness, livestock, pets, racing etc.
This strategic priority program seeks to address some of these to help maintain and improve the long-term financial sustainability of veterinarians and veterinary services in Australia. Having a viable and thriving veterinary profession is an essential precondition to preserving and advancing Australia’s biosecurity, food safety, livestock industries and pet ownership.
As veterinary medicine has developed, treatment options have expanded along with an increasing reliance on sophisticated technology and therapies. Pet owners now consider their pets as members of the family, and are more willing than in previous decades to consider spending money on them.
At the same time, the perception has grown that veterinary services are ‘expensive’ while remuneration for veterinarians has continued at a much lower level than those working in other professions. There are also sectors of the pet owning population who find it difficult to manage unexpected veterinary expenses.
Pressures on farmers to ensure productivity and high animal welfare standards have not necessarily resulted in increased reliance on professional veterinary support, particularly in the extensive industries.
It’s essential that there are sustainable veterinary businesses in rural and regional areas to support the food safety, animal welfare and disease surveillance requirements of Australia’s all-important agricultural industries. These veterinary businesses employ the frontline responders in the event of an emergency animal disease outbreak, who are increasingly important in the face of an ongoing decline in resourcing of government veterinary services.
The AVA was involved in the development of national standards for the employment of private veterinarians in an emergency animal disease outbreak. These national standards have been agreed by all states and territories. Part of this project was for the AVA to work with Guild Insurance to finalise insurance packages for private veterinarians engaged as independent contractors in an emergency animal disease reponse. These packages were announced in May 2014.
Other achievements of this program include developing best practice guidelines for veterinary internships, and monitoring Australian Taxation Office data on veterinary remuneration. We have been an active participants in reviews of the relevant industrial award.
To ensure the health and welfare of all species of Australia’s animals, and the safety of our communities and food sources against disease, veterinary practices must be economically sustainable and veterinarians must be adequately rewarded for their work.
This economic sustainability program includes five streams – vets on farms, remuneration, economic study, sustainable pet populations, and the value and affordability of veterinary services.
Vets on farms
The focus of this stream is to increase rural practice sustainability by increasing demand for veterinary services by livestock producers. We aim to achieve this by promoting the key role of the veterinarian in enhancing productivity, animal welfare and disease surveillance, and developing strategic partnerships between governments, industries and private veterinarians.
Current work includes collaboration with Animal Health Australia on an animal health alert app that will help producers connect with veterinarians over suspected disease hazards. There will be communication with members about the disease surveillance programs that provide both public benefit and revenue for practitioners. Training for veterinarians in emergency animal disease surveillance and response is also part of this stream.
This stream seeks to improve veterinary remuneration, which is dependent on the profitability of veterinary businesses as well as the mandated minimum remuneration set out in awards and other industrial instruments.
There has been a lot of member feedback that the industrial award that applies to veterinarians (the Animal Care and Veterinary Services Award 2010) is not serving employed veterinarians well, particularly in relation to minimum wages. There is minimal interest from unions to maintain the award. The AVA is restricted in its ability to modify the award through the Fair Work Commission processes as we represent both employees and employers, but is planning further work on alternative ways to support better remuneration for veterinarians.
The economic study will determine the best way to monitor the health and sustainability of the veterinary services industry over time. This is important to be able to evaluate the macro-level effects of our efforts to improve economic sustainability. It is currently planned for 2017.
Sustainable pet populations
Australia is one of the top pet-owning countries in the world with 63% of households owning a pet. The number of pets has been declining per capita for a number of years, while consumer spending on companion animals has been consistently trending upwards. The 8 billion dollar pet care industry (which includes veterinary services) is dependent for its survival on pet ownership remaining an attractive and accessible option for responsible pet owners.
AVA members have been concerned for many years about restrictive regulatory responses that are a barrier to pet ownership. As pets have been shown to have a number of benefits for owners and their communities, there is a public good aspect to ensuring there are pets available for responsible owners. At the same time, the problem of unwanted companion animals and animal welfare concerns need to be effectively addressed.
Advocacy activities in this stream focus on promoting evidence-based policy options to state, territory and local governments responsible for companion animal management and animal welfare. Increasing understanding of the benefits of pets is also part of the ongoing activity in this stream. The AVA may work in cooperation with other peak industry organisations to meet these objectives.
This stream builds on previous work relating to pet insurance. For the profession to be sustainable in the long term, veterinary services need to be valued and demanded by clients, and available at an affordable price. New work will focus on the full range of payment and affordability options including wellness plans, payment plans and pet insurance, providing support and resources for members. Activities to promote the contribution and value of veterinarians are also included.
- Award review - AVA participates in the reviews of the Animal Care and Veterinary Services Award 2010
- Pet insurance - Information for veterinarians and pet owners about pet insurance, and our work to promote increased uptake of pet insurance
Submissions and Activities
Final Report Animal Disease Surveillance - research report on producer reporting behaviour and engagement of veterinarians, September 2016.
- Productivity Commission inquiry into Agricultural Regulation - 11 February 2016
Agricultural Competitiveness Green Paper - Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, 12 December 2014