“Antimicrobial resistance is One Health global societal challenge”
The Annual General Meeting and Conference of Veterinary Ireland, the representative organisation for veterinary practitioners in Ireland, was officially opened this morning by Peter Burke T.D., Minister of State for European Affairs and Defence. Taking place at the Park Hotel in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, the event featured two scientific sessions plus an AGM, at which outgoing Veterinary Ireland President Paul McDermott, presented the chain of office to new Veterinary Ireland President Hazell Mullins BVM BVS PgCert ACP, who is a Large Animal Vet and dairy farmer from Carrignavar, Co. Cork.
Speaking in Mullingar, Minister Burke said that through the many activities carried out in daily work, whether in veterinary clinics, on farms, meat factories or in research institutes, the veterinary profession plays a vital role in ensuring animal health, human health and environmental health in this country are protected; and are a vital part of ‘One Health’ in Ireland.
“As this week is Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week, I want to note the key role veterinarians play in Ireland’s fight against this growing risk to both animal and human health,” said Minister Burke. “This leadership has resulted in annual reductions in overall sales of antibiotics well beyond that national target of 5% per annum. In addition, I welcome the recent publication of the HPRA Report on Sales of Veterinary Antibiotics in 2022 which shows a very positive 26% reduction in sales of antibiotics compared to 2020 levels.”
The Minister said that the role of the private veterinary practitioner in providing biosecurity advice is hugely important. “Veterinary services play a vital role in protecting consumers from diseases at virtually every stage in the food chain. I want to acknowledge the role of TVIs (Temporary Veterinary inspectors) in our meat plants. This vital role not only protects domestic consumers, but also protects our international trade, which is so important for a country that exports up to 90% of its meat.”
“No other stakeholders contribute to animal welfare more than our vets, in protecting and promoting animal welfare in Ireland. Several key pieces of work by government have taken place recently to tackle issues around welfare including new legislation introduced in September which strengthened the prohibitions on ear-cropping of dogs, which is a strong step towards ending this barbaric practice.” The Minister also paid tribute to Veterinary Ireland for its contributions to the Advisory Council on Companion Animal Welfare, including its welfare concerns about Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds, such as pugs and French bulldogs.
Minister Burke acknowledged that the veterinary profession faces many challenges to maintain the service to the public in our cities, towns and in rural communities and paid tribute to the ongoing commitment that is shown by the profession to the protection of human health, animal health and welfare in society, the environment, and food supply that ensures the maintenance of public trust and confidence in the veterinary profession.
Conor O’Mahony Principal Officer ERAD & Veterinary Medicines with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine gave a presentation on legislative changes in veterinary medicinal products. He told delegates that the Veterinary Medicinal Products, Medicated Feed and Fertiliser Regulation Act introduced in July of this year provides for matters which EU Regulation 2019/6 on veterinary medicinal products left to national law, including the retail of veterinary medicinal products. It also provides for the National Veterinary Prescription System (NVPS), which relates to the prescribing, dispensing, purchasing and record keeping for VMPs.
FURTHER CLARITY NEEDED ON NEW VETERINARY PRESCRIBING LEGISLATION
“Veterinary Ireland has engaged with the Department of Agriculture Food & the Marine on this legislation since 2016 but has not yet seen the proposed Statutory Instrument which is due to be signed by Minister Charlie McConalogue T.D. imminently,” explained Conor Geraghty, Chair of the Veterinary Ireland Medicines Working Group.
“The NVPS as proposed will involve significant administrative, time and financial burdens for veterinary practices, which creates a further obstacle to those farm animal, equine and mixed veterinary practices trying to attract and retain veterinary professionals,” said Mr Geraghty.
“The EU regulation requires the State to collect data on antimicrobial usage per species but before veterinarians take on the NVPS, Veterinary Ireland needs to get further clarity on behalf of our veterinary membership of how the NVPS will work, what new operations will be required, what supports and what legislative changes will be envisaged to make this happen,” said Mr Geraghty. “We also need clarity around the mixed messaging related to the ability of vets to prescribe to animals under their care using other proper assessment; and what farmers are being told on the availability of veterinary medicinal products.”
“These concerns need to be addressed to ensure that the veterinary profession is able to survive these legislative changes and continue to provide a proper veterinary service to clients and animals in the way Irish society has enjoyed heretofore.”
Outgoing Veterinary Ireland President Paul McDermott said that the ongoing introduction of legislation in relation to prescriptions and medicines necessitated complex negotiations with numerous stakeholders. He complimented the Veterinary Ireland team involved and the large crowds, both members and non-members, that attended regional meetings to discuss these issues and how they could threaten the viability of Veterinary Practice.
LEADERSHIP AND ENGAGEMENT CONTRIBUTING TO REDUCED USE OF ANTIMICROBIALS
Speaking in Mullingar, Caroline Garvan told delegates that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a One Health global societal challenge. “One Health recognises the interdependency between human, animal and plant health and our shared ecosystem. The veterinary profession sits at the junction of human, animal, and environmental health.”
“AMR is primarily a public health issue but also impacts food safety and food security. Disease prevention and actions to optimise animal health will reduce the development and spread of AMR both in animals, people and our shared environment,” said Ms Garvan, Senior Superintending Veterinary Inspector, Head of Division for Veterinary Medicines, Antimicrobial resistance, Animal By Products and Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies, at the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine.
“Veterinary practitioners as the prescribers of antimicrobials play an important role in promoting the responsible use of antimicrobials,” said Ms Garvan. “The reduction in the sale of antimicrobials for use in the agrifood sector indicates the leadership and engagement by veterinary practitioners and all stakeholders to address the AMR challenge.”
Ms Garvan also told delegates that antiparasitic resistance is a growing challenge for animal health, which impacts farm productivity and profitability as well as food security. Veterinary practitioners play a key role in developing on farm parasite control plans in order to ensure targeted and selective use of antiparasitics in combination with increased use of diagnostics, optimal biosecurity, and farm management practices. Responsible use of both antiparasitics and antimicrobials is important to maintain the efficacy of these important disease treatment tools.
ONE HEALTH AND VETERINARY SUSTAINABILITY
“We hear a lot about sustainability on a daily basis. The focus is often on environmental sustainability but it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the social and economic pillars of sustainability too”, said Dr Simon Doherty BVMS CertAqV CBiol FRSB FHEA ARAgS FRCVS, Senior Lecturer (Education), Animal Health & Welfare, School of Biological Sciences & Institute for Global Food Security, Queen’s University Belfast.
“One Health often remains a slightly ethereal concept for the general public although many people at least understand that it has something to do with the interlinkages between people, animals and their shared environment,” said Dr Doherty. Dr Doherty’s presentation introduced delegates to sustainability and One Health in the context of animal health and veterinary medicine.
EXERCISE – A POSITIVE INTERVENTION FOR THE VETERINARY PROFESSION
Barry McEntee, Physiotherapist, McEntee Physio & Performance Centre, Navan, Co Meath focused on exercise as an intervention for the veterinary profession for both physical and mental well-being. “Veterinarians and support staff often engage in physically demanding tasks, such as lifting and restraining animals, which require strength and agility. Whether working as a TVI, with large animals or in clinical practice, regular exercise helps maintain physical fitness, reducing the risk of musculoskeletal issues and injuries.”
“Additionally, the veterinary profession can be emotionally taxing, with long hours and challenging cases. For many, there is the added stress that goes with running one's own business,” said Mr McEntee. “Exercise serves as a stress reliever, promoting mental health, preventing burnout and reducing injury risk.”
Handing over the Presidential chain of office, Paul McDermott wished Hazell Mullins BVM BVS PgCert ACP well in her role as the new President of Veterinary Ireland. He reflected on a busy year with a large amount of very good relevant CVE. Vet 23 was run successfully by the Food Animal, Companion Animal Society and Equine Interest Groups of Veterinary Ireland. The Local Authority, Education Research and Industry and State Sector Interest Groups also ran a successful Veterinary Public Health conference in Tullamore in November. “These have helped to consolidate and expand Veterinary Ireland as the foremost Veterinary Professional Organisation in Ireland and the large number of colleagues who attended both justifies this statement,” concluded Mr McDermott.
Hazell Mullens said that this is a critical year for the establishment of a new Veterinary School which is one step towards helping to tackle the recruitment and retention issues of veterinarians in Ireland. “A personal goal is also to encourage younger vets to actively participate in Veterinary Ireland in order to exercise their voice and to help support their progression into leadership roles within the organisation.”
Ms Mullins said that supporting the new working conditions research group in Veterinary Ireland is vital to investigate the options available to improve work-life balance within Veterinary practice and she wished to continue to support the Medicines Working Group to ensure fair representation in regard to changing medicine regulations.