SEOUL, Jan. 23 (Korea Bizwire) — Regional authorities are struggling with the lack of quarantine specialists in charge of prevention of African swine fever, avian influenza, and other livestock epidemics.
Among 77 positions for government employees in charge of veterinary affairs available at 23 city and county governments in North Gyeongsang Province, only 43 had been filled before new recruits joined the workforce last November.
With 34 positions available, cities and counties made a surprising announcement to hire only 20 new recruits, after giving up on filling all positions since most recruits tend to resign after a short period.
They filled the empty positions with employees from agricultural affairs, who lack veterinary expertise but still offer a better option than leaving the positions empty over a long period of time while waiting for actual specialists.
What’s more, only 10 applicants showed up for examinations despite the announcement that 20 positions would be filled.
Unlike other government positions where applicants come in thousands to compete, these veterinary positions are unpopular due a harsh working environment and fewer opportunities for a promotion.
Vets have to struggle with aggressive animals to extract blood and inject vaccines in unpleasant conditions such as pens filled with animal feces.
They are also required to show up for emergencies (6 to 8 months each year) and work on weekends on many occasions.
When an animal dies, they are immediately sent to the field to conduct an autopsy, even if it means going out in the cold, heat, or in the middle of the night.
If the animal, considered dead and subject for autopsy, is still alive, they are also responsible for killing them to carry out the autopsy.
One local veterinary employee turned vegetarian after going through such an experience, while eight others have been injured on active duty since 2016.
If a local farm requests that authorities conduct health examinations on livestock suspected of a certain illness, the employees are required to go out even on weekends to extract blood samples, treat the livestock, and offer diagnosis, which requires a considerable level of expertise and clinical experience.
Those who are capable of carrying out such tasks are shrinking in number since more government-employed veterinarians are quitting their jobs.
On top of the excruciating tasks, poor treatment is also counted as one of the major reasons for leaving the position.
So far, 11 veterinary employees have left the post since 2016 nationwide.
“This exposes us to the risk of an epidemic,” said Kim Kyu-seop, head of animal quarantine at North Gyeongsang Provincial Government.
D. M. Park (firstname.lastname@example.org)