ANIMALS could have access to public healthcare under a new 'Veticare' proposal and animal justice representatives hope the scheme could expand nationally.
Victorian Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick's proposed Medicare for animals scheme for the state would have public vet clinics and wildlife hospitals subsidised by state taxpayers.
"This won't just be a win for companion animals and wildlife - but for hardworking vets and vet nursing teams," Mr Meddick said.
While any investment is welcome for the industry, the Australian veterinarian body said subsidised pet care won't be useful if there are not enough veterinarians to provide the care.
The industry was experiencing a staffing crisis, Australian Veterinary Association president Dr Bronwyn Orr said. The focus should be on support for more training, she said.
Under the proposed scheme, vet nurses could also "upskill" to perform more tasks, like issuing prescriptions and surgery preparation.
While Animal Justice representatives claimed that would free vets up to perform more complex work, Dr Orr said vets studied for years to become registered to prescribe medication.
"The concern in giving nurse practitioners prescribing rights is that it is not very thought out - we're registered and accounted for," she said.
"We think we need to go back to basics and make sure the vet nurses we do have are supported so they can get their registration."
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NSW Animal Justice MP Emma Hurst said the Veticare scheme was needed nationally, and more government support for vets would be invaluable.
"Veterinarians are facing impossibly high workloads for comparatively low pay," Ms Hurst said.
Many vets currently provided care for wildlife with no reimbursement, she said, and the Veticare scheme would mean vets could potentially recover the cost of providing that essential service.
"Unless we see urgent government intervention, the animal welfare impact of a vet shortage could be catastrophic," she said.
Despite some concerns about its roll-out, Dr Orr said the conversation is still an important one.
"We would absolutely support any sort of public recognition and funding for the work that vets do every single day," she said.
"We would really welcome the opportunity to co-design policy in this space."
The Animal Justice Party has not provided information about the cost of the 'Veticare' proposal.