If you’re anything like me, you maybe reeling with the number of major announcements being made by the Government with no detail behind them.
The biggest of them was a total change to our health system on 21 April. While many may applaud the decision to create one health entity which will come in three parts:
- Health NZ (to replace the DHB's)
- A Maori health authority
- Public health authority
The proclamation lacked how it’s going to work. Labour says their decision has been made due to treaty obligations. Yet what the Government has announced is very different to what was recommended by the NZ Health and Disability Review.
The extent of it caught everyone in the health sector on the hop — from local GP's to the DHB's. While the report promoted eight DHB's, the move to totally dump them wasn’t expected.
Immediately there were questions — the biggest being … what will it cost?
Among the many I have, what does it mean for health services in our rural communities?
Access is already hard for rural communities.
Wait times for doctors can be up to two weeks or more, if non-urgent, as local GP's and medical centres are under huge pressure. Add to this, the huge shortage of rural GP's nationwide with no long-term fix on the horizon.
Many of our rural folk with health issues needing specialist services cannot get to urban providers for several reasons — no car, no driver’s licence, no public transport, work commitments and the hours of time needed to do so, the cost of fuel to get there and back.
Meanwhile, diagnosing serious or terminal illnesses is delayed, especially when people are already arriving at their GP's with ‘acute’ symptoms in the first place.
Last Friday, 30 April, I attended a national Rural Health conference hosted at Wairakei.
The health professionals who work in rural communities gathered to discuss methods of delivery and support needed.
There are some really good models out there that can be replicated across the country, keeping the tools in rural community hands and working in networks based on locality.
I continue to admire the services of Mobile Health and the many organisations who work hard to service rural areas.
Any new system design needs to have input from the very people who do the work.
The Ministry of Health has been restructured five times in 10 years, the last in 2018. How many times do we need to change the name, letterhead and car signage, restructure staff or make them redundant?
As our health spokesperson, Dr Shane Reti, said on Friday: “New Zealand’s rural communities face unique health challenges, but Labour has failed to put forward how its health restructure will benefit our small rural communities and their GP's.
“In any major merger or centralisation it’s the small communities who lose their voice and, it’s widely known that already, our rural communities are losing out.”
And that is unacceptable.
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