• Wyatt Creech

"Labour's me-too rural health 'policy' is a flattering endorsement of where National is taking and continues to take rural health initiatives," Health Minister Wyatt Creech said today.

"National totally backs community driven solutions to health needs, especially in rural communities. We are actively working with communities to organise services around patients, better relationships, local solutions to local problems.

"The rural adjuster already pays an extra amount to rural public hospitals reflecting their higher costs. National already recognise the extra costs faced by GPs and pays them more.

"We're already putting in place telemedicine networks and promoting the use of other technology such as the 24 hour free phone Healthline.

"Our Roadside to Bedside Policy will ensure people get access to the emergency right care at the right time by the right person.

"Programmes are in place to recruit and support rural practitioners.

"In addition, following discussions with the South Island's Director of Rural Health and the Northern Consortium of Rural GPs the Government is currently working on a package of initiatives to help attract and support GPs in rural areas. Announcements are expected soon following completion of this work.

"The biggest flaw in Labour's policy is the establishment of District Area Health Boards. Health does not need yet more structural change. People are sick of this sort of thing.

"The establishment of 23 additional bureaucracies will cost considerably more than the current structure to set up and run. Political expediency - not good health outcomes - will be the order of the day.

"They also mean local communities will be lumbered with structures that won't fit them. Our community driven approach ensures there are horses for courses, not one size fits all.

"Rural health is more than ten things on a piece of paper. Labour's 'policy' is just a small slice of the comprehensive approach to rural health taken by National.

"A successful rural health policy involves planning and funding better health and disability support services, improving acute and emergency services, community based initiatives, developing and mainting skills in rural areas, networking, partnerships and technology and public health initiatives.

"It involves nurses, doctors, community health workers, mental health workers, pharmacies, technology, community health centres, Maori and Pacific providers, other social agencies, and family health teams.

"That's National's approach and there are many success stories in rural New Zealand illustrating how it is working," Mr Creech said.