8 Nov 2022

Rural health network calls for action on 'massive issue of rural inequity'

12:29 pm on 8 November 2022
The man's GP believed he was getting counselling for his depression.

Photo: 123RF

Hauora Taiwhenua has put together a roadmap for how the rural health service can be pulled off life support.

The rural health network's document Christchurch Consensus was formed after the National Rural Health Conference attended by about 400 rural health professionals in September.

It includes key priorities such as streamlining immigration rules to get more health workers into the country and boosting investment in training.

Chair Fiona Bolden said the document was fuelled by the sheer frustration of health workers in the rural sector.

"All of the people who involved in rural health had to come together because we are much stronger in our advocacy if we work together and we have had no result, really, over the last 20 years," she said.

"We're trying to be constructive around solutions, and we really need people to listen to them."

Bolden said recent research from Otago University, which found unadjusted mortality rates for rural people were 21 percent higher than their urban counterparts, showed the situation was urgent and needed to be treated as such.

The study also found Māori living rurally faced greater mortality rates than non-Māori or urban-based Māori.

"Rural people do have higher mortality rates, particularly in the younger age group, and for rural Māori, the mortality rates are over twice that of non-Māori.

"For rural Māori, they really have issues around their health outcomes, so we can't afford not to address this.

"It's not a nice to have. This is a massive issue of rural inequity, particularly for rural Māori, and it needs addressing."

The document had been sent to Te Whatu Ora and the Te Aka Whai Ora, the Māori Health Authority, Bolden said, and she was hoping to hear from them soon.

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