High veterinary doctor vacancy rate threatens fight against animal diseases like avian influenza

Issued by Noko Masipa MP – DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development
31 Oct 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Noko Masipa MP

In response to a written parliamentary question from the Democratic Alliance on the number of budgeted veterinary posts in the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), Minister Thoko Didiza revealed that the total number of approved and budgeted for veterinary posts has increased from 324 to 326 posts. However, despite the increase in the number of veterinary posts, the DALRRD still has a vacancy rate of 32% – which translates to 103 unfilled posts from the 326 positions that are funded. 

The lack of veterinary doctor capacity has been an ongoing problem such that, at one point, the DA made representations to Minister Didiza asking her to motivate for the reversal of the decision to exclude veterinary doctors from the scarce skills list by the Department of Home Affairs. Subsequent to the DA’s representations, Minister Didiza confirmed that she had successfully motivated for the return of veterinary doctors on the scarce skills list. 

It is concerning that South Africa is currently facing an outbreak of Avian Influenza (AI) and Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) with limited veterinary doctors available to assist. Both AI and RHDV have become a national crisis, with Gauteng being the epicentre of these outbreaks. Farmers have lost millions of chickens and thousands of rabbits are dying daily. Veterinary services are a provincial responsibility, but Gauteng is struggling to manage the situation and there is not enough available capacity elsewhere in the province to deploy at the specific epicentres. 

The DALRRD requires additional manpower to assist farmers affected by these outbreaks. Poultry farmers require expedient processing of permit applications to import fertilized eggs. Upon arrival in the country, these eggs must be inspected by veterinary doctors, but there is not enough capacity to inspect the consignments quickly, causing delays. 

The DA is requesting the National Minister to consider a targeted provincial disaster intervention, comprising public and private veterinary capacity, to help the Gauteng Province address the pressing issue of the current outbreak of animal diseases, which includes African Horse Sickness, Avian Influenza, and Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus. 

The DA refuses to fold its arms while Gauteng’s food security is placed at risk due to a lack of comprehensive plans to stop the spread of animal diseases and their potential spread to other provinces. 

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