HA NOI — While veterinary staff working at the grassroots level of communes are considered as playing a key role in control of diseases among cattle and poultry, there are very few support policies for these workers.
|A veterinary doctor gives a rabies jab to a dog in Ha Noi's Tu Liem District. Vets at grassroots levels receive low salaries and work in poor conditions. — VNA/VNS Photo Xuan Truong
Local veterinary staff in suburban districts of Ha Noi, let alone more isolated rural areas, faces many hardships including low pay and poor working conditions.
Nguyen Minh Tuan, head of veterinary team in Thuong Tin District's Tan Minh Commune, said his team had five members responsible for over 1,300 pigs, 3,500 chickens and 21,000 ducks in the commune.
The 50-year-old veterinarian with 20-year experience said he was paid VND1.05 million (US$50) each month as head of the team, while each of the other members were paid VND346,000 ($16.5).
Despite the low pay, vets have many jobs to do, Tuan said, including work on informing local farmers about diseases and preventative measures as well as carrying out vaccinations and other work to control outbreaks of disease.
"Those things must be done regularly, daily or monthly," he said.
"But all of us have to do extra jobs such as farming or raising pigs to get more income."
Tuan said that during an outbreak of blue-ear disease among pigs in April, 2010, over 1.6 tonnes of affected animals needed to be destroyed.
"At that time, I would run around the commune all day recording the number of affected pigs and which ones were destroyed for nearly a month," he said, adding that he was paid VND650,000 ($31) to do the task.
In addition, there is no office for the veterinary team and their equipment and vaccines are stored at the local commune's police station. The vets team usually gathered at his house to plan their activities, he said.
"The real problem is that we veterinarians will not benefit from any insurance policies, I will have no retirement pension in the future, which is a great concern," he said.
The commune People's Committee chairman Dinh Ba Vinh said that veterinary workers were not recognised as commune officers.
"The commune hires them and pays them an allowance while official commune officers can benefit from health and social insurance, the commune is obligated to pay part of these insurance fees," he said.
Sharing the same situation as commune veterinary members are those working in plant protection, agriculture promotion and irrigation, he said.
Head of the Animal Health Division of Chuong My District, Nguyen Thi Ngu, said that almost all of veterinary staff in the district also had to take extra jobs.
"The low pay is not enough for them to make ends meet and they can not always concentrate on assigned tasks," she said.
"That's not to mention the hardships they have to undergo, as veterinary staff face high risks of catching diseases."
Meanwhile, according to Ngu, the municipal People's Committee has approved a policy for the heads of veterinary teams in communes. Accordingly, they will be recognised as commune officers and eligible to benefit from insurance policies such as a retirement pension.
Trinh Dinh Thau, dean of the Veterinary Medicine Faculty at the Ha Noi University of Agriculture, said that few graduates were interested in working at the commune or district levels because of insufficient support policies.
This would cause a shortage of skilled veterinary staff at grassroots levels as they would be lured by private companies offering higher salaries and better working conditions, he said. — VNS