INDEPENDENT NEWS

Labour's 10 point plan for rural health

Published: Mon 11 Oct 1999 09:36 AM
Labour has recognised the special concerns and health requirements of rural New Zealanders in its Rural Health policy, said Labour health spokesperson Annette King and rural health spokesperson Mark Peck.
"National has allowed our public health system to be run down, privatised and commercialised in the name of so called "health reforms". Treating public healthcare as a market has ignored the unique needs of many groups, including rural people. They have seen local hospitals shut down, overworked GPs move away and healthcare decisions made by bureaucrats in Wellington.
"Labour will reintroduce District Health Boards, with a majority of members elected from the local community, to run regional public health services. This will give representatives of local communities real involvement in decisions about local services.
"Rural communities are entitled to equity of access to services, rather than equality of expenditure on a per capita basis. Sometimes it is best to pay a little more to ensure access is maintained.
"Labour will have a minister with specific responsibility for rural health, who will work with rural communities to implement a comprehensive ten-point plan:
1. There will be a rural health premium to ensure the retention of quality health services.
2. District Health Boards will have to implement effective transport and accommodation policies to cater for the needs of patients and their families.
3. District Health Boards will have to ensure that there is a comprehensive range of community based services available to rural communities, particularly mental health services and district nursing services.
4. Rural communities will have a critical mass of health professionals. Labour supports the Rural Hospital Training Programme, and will also look at other financial or training initiatives which encourage health professionals to practise in rural communities.
5. Labour will introduce a Rural Practice Support Scheme. Eligible GPs with heavy workloads can apply for a grant to employ locum relief.
6. Labour will establish a pool of locum relief professionals to service the Rural Practice Support Scheme.
7. Rural communities will have emergency services they can rely on in times of need.
8. Effective use will be made of tele-medicine technologies to ensure that the delivery of health services can, where practicable, be delivered for patients close to their home.
9. The use of mobile surgical units will be evaluated with the view of using them in rural New Zealand.
10. Longer-term funding arrangements will be made with Community Trusts to provide rural services.
"Labour is committed to raising the health status of all New Zealanders and reducing the inequalities between different sections of the community. Our ten point plan has been carefully designed to meet the unique needs of rural communities, which have been neglected for far too long," Annette King and Mark Peck said.

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