Rural specialized health services in crisis

Joseph Mooney is the MP for Southland

Rural health as a whole is in crisis in our region.

The government’s plan to deal with this crisis is to replace the 20 district health boards with a Crown organisation, Health New Zealand, through its Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill which will come into force on July, 1st.

Health Minister Andrew Little’s sudden introduction of a very last-minute amendment to his Bill called the ‘Rural Health Strategy’ demonstrates the urgent need to address the inequities of our rural health workforce .

The minister has previously been quoted as saying his government is “committed to building a new national health system so that all New Zealanders can get the health care they need, no matter who they are or who they are.” where they live”.

* Anger as rural communities are ‘left in the wilderness’ in health reforms
* Southern DHB cancer specialists have the highest workload in New Zealand
* “Extraordinarily painful”: cancer patients are forced to wait months for treatment

Any rural health strategy must recognize that rural communities and rural health personnel, including midwives, nurses and the aged care sector, have unique challenges.

I recently met with the NZ Aged Care Association who cited government underinvestment and a lack of policies or funding mechanisms to increase the supply of care beds to meet the growing demand and complexity of needs, as big problems for the sector.

Another priority issue that needs to be addressed is the turnover of registered nurses (RNs) of 48% (a 15% increase since December 2019) and caregivers (26%).

With 2,200 full-time equivalent nursing positions currently vacant in New Zealand, one proposed solution could be to encourage graduates, experienced RNs and nursing trainees to consider residential care for the elderly as a desirable career choice.

These shortages also affect people in need of specialized services, such as cancer treatment.

Some cancer patients wait too long to be seen by a specialist, and funding for cancer services has not kept up with demand.

Much like the Southland Charity Hospital, the Cancer Society has had to turn to fundraising to enable it to continue caring for the patients it cares for.

I also started a fundraising campaign for the Cancer Society to try to raise as much money as possible to highlight their plight. If I succeed in raising over $1000, I plan to jump out of a plane to show my support for those living with cancer and creating a future with less cancer in our society.

You can follow my journey at

While I welcome the government coming to the table by including a “rural health strategy” in its thinking, any such strategy must provide pathways to develop our rural health workforce and fund all services sufficiently to ensure good health outcomes for our local communities.

The reopening of the ski slopes this month will be a huge relief for many companies in the snow industry.

Not only will this bring much needed tourist dollars to our area, but I’m sure many of you, like me, are looking forward to getting out and enjoying the slopes.

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