West Coast Vet - Funding Denied

October 26, 2021

Summary of the article “Additional Funding Denied for BC Veterinary Students Amid Province’s Veterinary Shortage”, by Madison Audeau, BSc. This article was published for the CVMA-SBCV West Coast Veterinary Magazine and was the student liaison chapter for Fall 2021. https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/west-coast-veterinarian-fall-2021

Many pet owners in the Comox Valley have noted a recent increase in wait times for appointments at their veterinary clinic. While these issues are in part due to COVID-19 protocols (i.e., extensive disinfection protocols, telemedicine/curbside appointments, surgery delays, etc.), there is another, and perhaps more dire, issue at play: a shortage of veterinarians.

Getting into veterinary school is a difficult endeavor, but it is increasingly so if you reside in British Columbia. The academic requirements to apply to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) is 2 years of undergraduate pre-requisites with a minimum cumulative average of 75%. However, if you are a B.C. resident, you need to aim for an 83-85% average to be considered. This is because there are approximately 7-8 applicants per seat for British Columbians, or 145 applications a year.

Currently, the WCVM takes 20 students from B.C. each year. These seats are considered the provincially subsidized seats which are then in part of the interprovincial agreement (IPA) with the western provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba).

In recent years, the province of Alberta has since revoked their participation in the IPA, considering they have their own veterinary program at the University of Calgary. While this revocation has decreased funding towards the program, it also opened 20 seats that could become available for B.C. residents. Despite the significant demand for additional veterinarians in the province, this opportunity was blatantly denied by the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training despite the overwhelming supporting data.

In response, WCVM has modified these 20 seats and coined them as non-IPA, which coincidingly comes with a hefty tuition price of $68,000 per year, which is almost 6 times the cost of the IPA funded seats. This would leave students with a debt of $272,000 for the veterinary tuition, let alone their other expenses or debt carried over from their undergraduate courses.

There is still a chance that these 20 non-IPA funded seats can still be made exclusive to B.C. residents if the province agrees to fund them. This decision needs to be made by the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training by March 1, 2022.  For those of us working in the veterinary industry, it is very clear that this would be the ideal decision to help with the increasing demands of veterinary care.

The best that we can do, and pet owners alike, is to continue to express concerns to our local MLA in the hopes that these seats will be reserved for our province.

Written by: Tana Molenaar-Wilson