Recommendations on vet practice ownership due in weeks
Recommendations on who can own a veterinary practice are due within weeks, after concerns were raised about corporate entities owning veterinary practices.
Current legislation governing the Veterinary Council does not deal with ownership of veterinary practices and fears that ‘supermarket’ style veterinary practice chains might be established, with a possible knock on impact on clients and animal welfare, have promoted the Veterinary Council to review regulations.
Speaking at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Peadar O Scanaill, President of the Veterinary Council, which regulates vets, said the topic of veterinary practise ownership has been a very divisive one and since January 2018 there has been significant ongoing work around regulation of the situation.
A report on the situation along with consultations and legal advice is expected to be completed in the coming weeks, he said, and it's expected a clarification statement will be issued.
Peadar O Scanaill said questions over ownership of veterinary practices had been on the radar for a number of years, but there were issues in the Veterinary Council’s code that were contradictory around ownership. He said the Veterinary Council looked at the act and admitted that consultation beforehand would have been better.
In December 2017 the Veterinary Council amended code of conduct to say that ownership of veterinary practise by corporate bodies is not prohibited. However, at the time Veterinary Ireland said it had serious concerns related to the changes.
The interpretation from 2005 to January 2018 was that a corporate could not own a practice, but concerns that multinationals were buying practices led the Veterinary Council trying to clarify the situation, but according to Peadar O Scanaill this confused rather than clarified the situation.
Sinn Fein TD Martin Kenny said there is a fear in farming communities that corporate-owned veterinary practices might focus on more profitable areas, rather than large animal services.
Fianna Fail TD Jackie Cahill criticised the Council, saying it had suspended its December 2017 decision within weeks and now practices are being bought while the review is going on.
He also asked if there was a conflict of interest in the Veterinary Council at the time of the change.
Labour TD Willie Penrose questioned why the consultation process did not happen before the changes to the legislation were made and said the Minister for Agriculture should be taking a hand in the situation.
Veterinary Council Registrar Muldoon said the Veterinary Council has no role in ownership or practices, never has and never will.
“It oversees the quality of services delivered by its registrants and the practise of veterinary medicine. At no time will it allow for any diminution of standards.”