Winter Relief Funding and Extended Services

Media Release

4 May 2023

Hauora Taiwhenua welcomes planning for winter health impact on rural communities

Hauora Taiwhenua welcomed the release today by Minister Verrall of a 24-point plan to proactively address system pressures posed by upcoming winter health escalations.

“This list of initiatives encompasses a broad range of ideas which are deemed to be deliverable within a short time frame and it is great to see that rural communities and rural practices have been considered within this list,” stated Dr Fiona Bolden, Chair of Hauora Taiwhenua.

The initiatives include providing extended telehealth services for rural communities where the practices serving those areas are overloaded or not able to staff comprehensive 24/7 afterhours services, along with developing a more comprehensive rural telehealth service for beyond the winter months.

Te Whatu Ora is also funding Hauora Taiwhenua to provide workforce support through its locum placement service, to support Cyclone Gabrielle-affected areas, as well as sourcing short and long-term general practitioners and nurse practitioners to provide relief for rural practices and hospitals.

We are also pleased to see that calls to extend direct referrals from general practices to diagnostic services, funding for point of care testing in targeted rural areas. We do note that there will be challenges to providing these diagnostic services in areas where there are no existing private providers, as is the case in many rural areas. Some rural areas will be able to benefit from the implementation of the new money towards comprehensive community care teams although it is still not entirely clear how these will be rolled out.

There are also a number of initiatives designed to direct the medical requirements of low-needs patients away from general practice and rural hospitals, by having these needs serviced by pharmacies and kaiāwhina, among others. This includes vaccinations, management of minor ailments and provision of analgesics such as paracetamol and ibuprofen; with these services funded by the Government.

“While these initiatives have the potential to take the pressure off understaffed rural general practices and rural hospitals in the upcoming winter months, it is not a panacea for long term solutions for rural health,” warned Dr Bolden. “What this will mean is that general practices will be left dealing with the complex patients, often with multiple conditions, that need time to diagnose, treat and manage. These consults take much longer than the 15-minute paid allocations provided by Government funding and, if more of an average day is spent managing these patients, this will further increase the financial stress on our practices.”

What cannot be forgotten is that all of these initiatives still need a rural workforce to deliver them. Across rural areas we are short not only of rural doctors, rural hospital staff, nurses, and nurse practitioners, but also of pharmacists, needs assessment workers and midwives. We embrace the intention of these initiatives to support the existing workforce, but we urge the Government to expedite the formation of a comprehensive plan for primary care, including rural, with a rapid and supportive uplift in primary care funding and urgent action on the workforce pipeline.


For more information on what is available and how to apply contact:

Luke Baddington

Kaiwhakahaere Matua Kaimahi | GM Workforce Recruitment

Tel (+64) 4495 5871 | Cell (+64) 22 0850 437 | Fax (+64) 4472 0904