Legal changes to the Veterinary Act are needed in order to give the Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI) the power to decide who can own veterinary practices, members of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture said on Tuesday.
Veterinary Council representatives told the committee that it can only regulate veterinary practitioners, not who owns the practices.
Members of the Oireachtas committee queried whether decisions made by a corporate owner of a veterinary practice could tie the hands of the vets working in it.
They asked if, for example, the corporate owner decided that a practice would no longer deal with large animals, could the Veterinary Council regulate this?
The answer from Veterinary Council registrar Niamh Muldoon and president Peadar
O Scanaill was that such action does not fall under the council’s legislative remit.
“Before any corporate gets involved anywhere, the only person who can provide the service and influence the practice and decide what it is going to do is the veterinary practitioner,” O Scannaill said.
“There isn’t a fourth party. The vet is the first party, we [the Veterinary Council] are the second party, the farmer is the third party.”
A report by Grant Thornton into corporate ownership of veterinary practices is expected this summer.
‘Corporates will cherry pick vet practices’
Vets have voiced concern over the Veterinary Council saying it has no role in ownership of practices. They say this effectively de-regulates the sector.
The representative body for vets, Veterinary Ireland, says that the law is clear that non-registered persons can have no involvement in the practise of veterinary medicine.
“Our big concern with the lay corporates from the UK is that it will lead to the diminution of the service to farmers,” Veterinary Ireland CEO Finbarr Murphy said.
“Corporates can cherry pick the more profitable parts of the business such as small animal services. The experience in the UK is that services become regionalised and out of hours cover is either too expensive or unavailable.”