Newtownards Divisional Veterinary Office

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture and Rural Development – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:45 pm on 29th April 2002.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 3:45 pm, 29th April 2002

8. asked the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development how many field staff in the Newtownards divisional veterinary office are dedicated to the eradication of brucellosis.

(AQO 1225/01)

Photo of Ms Brid Rodgers Ms Brid Rodgers Social Democratic and Labour Party

As I explained in my recent letter to the Member, there are seven animal health and welfare inspectors and five veterinary officers headquartered in the Newtownards divisional office. These staff are not dedicated to any specific disease-control programme but rather implement the disease-control priorities in the division. This is the most flexible and efficient way to use our staff.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I thank the Minister for her response, and for her letter, which I received on Saturday.

Is she aware that brucellosis is a particular problem in the Lagan Valley constituency, which is served by the Newtownards veterinary office? Veterinary officers there have not had time off for the last four to five months because of work pressure. Is the Minister concerned that brucellosis is not being dealt with quickly enough because there are too few field personnel?

Photo of Ms Brid Rodgers Ms Brid Rodgers Social Democratic and Labour Party

I cannot comment on the time off that vets have had in that division. It would certainly concern me if they had not had time off for five months. I know that last year, because of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, divisional veterinary officers were under great strain, and I compliment them on the way they lived up to it, as they had very little sleep and very little time off.

As regards staffing, we are conducting a review of our brucellosis and TB controls. We have already taken steps to deal with the vets’ increasing workload. Additional brucellosis assessors have been brought in to get reactors moved more quickly and to work through the backlog; in fact, the backlog has now been dealt with.