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Government Loses The Plot On Rural Health

Thursday 30 May 2002

ACT rural-based MP Gerry Eckhoff says the Government's rural health package is an exercise in futility unless we actually have doctors practising in rural New Zealand.

"Rural GP services are in an ever-decreasing circle. Rural GPS are packing their bags and leaving in droves. We have to focus on the fact we are losing GPs hand-over-fist. Without such a focus, the Government's announced $10 million-a-year package is mere election year window dressing.

"We need to examine ways of attracting GPs to rural New Zealand. One obvious way is to take advantage of doctors keen to come here from other countries.

"But the problem is, rural GPs are not a priority occupation according to the Immigration Department. It is simply outrageous that despite years of chronic shortages, rural GPs are treated no differently then unskilled workers wishing residency in New Zealand.

"I understand that the Government has not even consulted with organised medical groups to find out the areas of primary health care most in need of bolstering - and I think that is absolutely extraordinary.

"My own rural GP in Roxburgh, is a recent immigrant. Despite having all the skills and more to be an excellent local doctor, she is currently excluded from permanent residence on spurious technical grounds. If she is forced to leave the country, all health services in the district could be lost.

"Rural health services are in crisis throughout the length and breadth of the country. There needs to be a fundamental rethink by the authorities to address the reality of health professional shortages, burn-out and why, despite substantial money over the years being put into health services the situation is deteriorating by the day," Gerry Eckhoff said.


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