RuralFest, an annual event organised by the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) identifies the key changes needed to improve health and wellbeing in rural communities, and takes those messages to Parliament.
This year was Pinnacle’s first year as a member of RHAANZ and Dr Robin Baird (Te Kauwhata GP) and Dr Jo Scott-Jones (GP and medical director) had the privilege to attend. Below they report back.
Over the course of two days, representatives of the 37 member organisations had the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Health, chair of the health select committee, and ministers responsible for rural community interests, along with politicians of all persuasions.
This cross-party event helps to seed ideas into political planning, and provide solutions for the knotty problems that impact on the sustainability of rural communities.
The success of RuralFest over the past six years can be seen in the focus on rural mental health, rural inequity identified in the health and disability review, the HRC funding of a new definition of rurality in New Zealand, and last year was directly credited with an increase in funding for rural midwifery.
The "calls for action” were generated this year by representatives of agribusiness, rural contractors, farmers, educators from universities and training organisations, and health representatives from psychology, nursing, midwifery, social work, rural hospitals, doctors, students and PHOs.
There was a call for a five year rural health plan which would support equitable outcomes for Māori locality specific, sustainable funding to achieve equitable rural health outcomes; workforce development, by rural, for rural, in rural; and continued connectivity expansion, all leading to a moemoeā (vision) of an integrated health care system for all rural people.
Each broad area was supported by more detailed advice for government that ranged from ensuring there is rural leadership in the implementation of the health and disability review, to supporting the development of a mobile diagnostic service to take complex investigations into underserved rural communities.
Minister Little emphasised how unique it was for a united voice to come from a sector, and acknowledged the power that comes from displaying common ground issues across a wide representative group, and Minister O’Connor committed to involving RHAANZ in “rural proofing” the health and disability review following the announcement of the major structural changes expected next week.
Further details of the “call for action” will be published after the health and disability review announcement.
This was a fantastic opportunity for Pinnacle to advocate for its 30 rural practices and the 130 thousand people they serve, at the highest level.