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The role of private veterinarians and veterinary para-professionals in the provision of animal health services

Various OIE Regional Commissions having requested that our organisation address the issue of the use of private veterinarians and veterinary para-professionals by national Veterinary Services and the conditions under which they may be used in order to comply with the OIE international standards on the quality of Veterinary Services and international certification of animals and their products. In response to these requests, an Ad hoc Group was formed with the following terms of reference:

- to define the functions and responsibilities of private veterinarians and para-professionals in the provision of animal health services; and
- to provide guidelines on the roles, inter-relationships and regulations required to link them with the relevant fields of activities of the Veterinary Services.
The objectives of the Ad hoc Group fall within two of the OIE's missions:
- to improve the transparency of the world animal health situation by setting minimum requirements for effective animal diseases and zoonosis surveillance systems; and
- to improve the safety of international trade in animals and animal products by setting minimum standards underpinning relevant procedures and requirements for export certification, acceptable to importing countries.

This work is also relevant to the commitment made by the major relevant International Organisations at the Doha ministerial meeting regarding capacity building in developing countries, where Veterinary Services may be under organisational or financial pressure, to enhance their participation in regional or international trade in animals and their products.
Members of the Ad hoc Group come from the public and private sectors, from Africa, the European Union, South America and South-East Asia.

In its recommendations, the Ad hoc Group accepted that Veterinary Services incorporate private veterinarians and veterinary para-professionals. It has defined a veterinary para-professional as a person who is authorised to carry out certain veterinary tasks with authorisation from a Veterinary Statutory Body, under the responsibility and direction of a registered or licenced veterinarian. Examples of veterinary para-professionals would include veterinary nurses, veterinary technicians, community-based animal health workers, food inspectors, and livestock inspectors. The modified definition of Veterinary Services emphasises the important role of the private sector in the provision of these services, especially regarding animal disease surveillance and reporting, and the implementation of animal disease control measures.

To ensure adherence to ethical codes and standards by veterinarians and veterinary para-professionals, the Ad hoc Group has recommended that a Veterinary Statutory Body be established in each OIE Member Country. This body will be responsible for the licensing/registration of private veterinarians and veterinary para-professionals, the setting and monitoring of professional standards, and for discipline. Such a body will play a vital role in maintaining public and international confidence in Veterinary Services.
The Ad hoc Group has recommended that OIE Regional Commissions encourage the harmonisation of the licensing/registration of veterinarians, and eventually that of veterinary para-professionals, on a regional rather than on a single country basis. The Ad hoc Group has also recommended that Veterinary Services establish links to recognise and regulate transboundary veterinary activities, including the movement of veterinarians and para-professionals across national borders.

To strengthen animal health and veterinary public health services through improved involvement of private veterinarians and veterinary para-professionals, it was also considered important that Veterinary Services build formal links with individual veterinarians and veterinary para-professionals. Such links could take the form of contracts for the provision of specific services such as disease monitoring and surveillance, animal vaccination, food inspection and disease prevention and control.
As field reports of disease outbreaks are a key component of disease surveillance, livestock owners and their sanitary organisations, veterinary para-professionals and private veterinarians have a vital role to play in the effective surveillance of animal diseases and zoonoses.
The recommendations arising from the meetings of the Ad hoc Group provide a sound basis for including these professional groups in the activities of the Veterinary Services of OIE Member Countries. This will in turn enhance the transparency of the world animal health situation, improve the safety of international trade in animals and animal products through reliable certification, and help to provide many countries with greater access to regional and international markets.

The Ad hoc Group's recommendations will be discussed at the OIE General Session in May 2004 and should lead to the adoption of new provisions for the relevant chapters of the Terrestrial Animal Health Code.

Bernard Vallat

Contact : media@oie.int

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