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Rural health workforce crisis needs action

Hon Tony Ryall
National Party Health spokesman

Jo Goodhew National Party Associate Health Spokeswoman (Rural Health)

30 November 2006

Rural health workforce crisis needs action

Labour's neglect of the rural health workforce crisis has been confirmed in a just released report published by the Ministry of Health.

National's Health Spokesman, Tony Ryall, says rural New Zealand will find it even harder to get to a GP or midwife unless Labour addresses growing shortages of key health staff around the country.

Mr Ryall's comments follow the release of the 2005 Rural Health Workforce Survey by the Ministry of Health, some months after the Ministry first received the report.

"This report confirms what is already well-known in New Zealand: we are losing GPs from rural areas, huge numbers are planning to quit in the next 2 to 5 years and after-hours services are getting harder to find. In many parts of the country, patients can not register with a GP.

"The report also confirms the growing midwife shortage. Doctors also make it clear the Primary Health Care Strategy has delivered endless paperwork and compliance costs.

"If you take limited numbers of doctors and nurses, and overlay the ageing baby boomers, then you have a tectonic shift in our ability to provide quality health care in rural New Zealand.

"Like he is on so many things the Health Minister, Mr Hodgson, is ignoring this crisis.

"What's needed is more places in our medical schools, with a strong focus on training in rural and provincial communities. Overseas research shows if health professionals are trained in rural areas then they are more likely to want to work in rural areas.

"The Government must also cut back on the bureaucracy of its primary care policies, and cut personal taxes to make it more worthwhile to stay in New Zealand," says Mr Ryall.

National's Associate Health spokeswoman for Rural Health, Jo Goodhew, says Labour fails to understand the pressure so many rural communities are under to maintain their GPs and midwives.

"Mr Hodgson needs to remember rural businesses are the backbone of our economy and to realise without quality, accessible health services in rural New Zealand it will be harder for us to sustain and grow our export effort," says Mrs Goodhew.

ENDS

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