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Action needed now to halt rural health decline

Action needed now to halt rural health decline

New Zealand must act fast to prevent the rural health workforce from being decimated by aggressive overseas recruitment drives, the NZ Rural General Practice Network says.

"Many regions in New Zealand are losing general practitioners, and struggling to provide rural communities with health services," said NZRGPN Chairperson Dr Tim Malloy.

"If we do not learn from other countries we are in danger of being the target of their recruitment drives which will greatly worsen the problems that already exist.

"The solution must lie in political will and resourcing support right now for the rural primary care teams which are the backbone of our rural health service and vital for our rural communities."

Dr Malloy has just returned from the World Organisation of Family Doctors 5th Annual Conference on Rural Health, held in Melbourne.

The major theme explored was the worldwide struggle of both developed and developing nations to deliver health care to rural communities.

"The major causes of poor health outcomes and inequity are often poverty, sanitation and poor infrastructure," Dr Malloy said. "However, problems with the retention and recruitment of the rural primary care team are universal, and can result in health service failure.

"The most successful countries in dealing with these problems are those which have acknowledged the importance of this issue and developed a genuine strategy for rural health, with both genuine political will and aggressive implementation."

Dr Malloy said the NZRGPN had been working closely with Ministry of Health over the past year as a member of the Rural Expert Advisory Group. This has resulted in the report 'Implementing the Primary Health Care Strategy in Rural New Zealand'.

"While this is not a comprehensive Rural Strategy it is a start. We hope that the Government will acknowledge the severity of the issues in rural health by swift implementation of the report's recommendations."

ENDS

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