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Politicians to front-up at rural health conference

March 7, 2014

Politicians to front-up at rural health conference

With a general election looming towards the end of 2014, a major feature of the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network conference in Wellington this month will be a political forum attended by MPs from the main political parties.

Those attending are National Party MP and member of the health select committee Dr Paul Hutchison, Labour’s health spokesperson and Rongotai MP Annette King, Green Party health spokesperson Kevin Hague, and NZ First’s health spokesperson Barbara Stewart.

The session will give each MP the opportunity to talk on health policies and issues specific to rural primary care, including acute shortages of doctors in some rural areas, extra training places in medical and nursing schools for those wanting to work in rural areas, extending the Voluntary Bonding Scheme to cover more health disciplines, extra funding for and the distribution of funds to rural health providers, and rural maternity care, to name some topics.

The political session will be chaired by former journalist, now lawyer Linda Clark and will also include time for questions from the floor from delegates.

The session will be held on the morning of March 14 at TSB Bank Arena/Shed 6, Wellington waterfront from 9.15am to 10.45am.

“The political session gives both delegates and politicians the opportunity to talk about and listen to topics of high importance to the rural health sector in a year that hosts a general election. Health is always a hot topic and rural health has its share of simmering perennial issues such as doctor shortages, onerous after-hours rosters, equitable and fair funding formulas, and recruitment retention,” says Network chairperson Dr Jo Scott-Jones.

“The Network has lobbied for some time to have primary care nurses added to the hard to staff specialties under the VBS, and this was recently achieved, however there is more progress needed in this area.

“The Network has been working with the Ministry of Health and DHBs to produce a more equitable funding formula for rural practices, something that has been a “work-in-progress for a number of years and is an important part of the rural health landscape.

“Technology in health is part of the future solution to overcoming some barriers of distance and isolation and we will be interested in hearing what the various parties have to say on this and other topics,” says Dr Scott-Jones.

Scheduled for March 12-16 at Shed 6/TSB Bank Arena on Wellington's waterfront, the five-day conference is titled "Rural Communities – the Backbone of New Zealand", a theme designed to highlight the important role rural New Zealand and its communities play in the economic well-being of the country.

The conference starts with the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) day on Wednesday, March 12 featuring keynote speakers and panel discussion. There will be a particular focus on mental health – depression and suicide – in rural communities. There is a line-up of thought provoking speakers from a range of backgrounds: health providers, local government, industry groups and community groups.

The other four days of the conference (March 13-16) will focus on the delivery of rural primary health care services and will include plenary sessions of interest for clinicians, health planners and managers. Concurrent streams for GPs, nurses, rural hospital staff, practice management and research make up the remainder of the program.

The Network conference has been endorsed by the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners (RNZCGP) and has been approved for up to 11.75 credits for day one and day two of the conference and up to 8.5 credits for the pre-conference day for CME for General Practice Educational Programme Stage 2 (GPEP2) and Maintenance of Professional Standards (MOPS) purposes.

The Network’s AGM will be held from 5.45pm to 7.15pm on the Saturday night (March 15).

The Pat Farry Rural Health Education Trust Fun Run and Walk returns for the third year with the Wellington waterfront hosting this fundraising event on the morning of Saturday, March 15.

ENDS

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