Te Pae Tata/Interim Health Plan Released – strong on Intent, weak on detail for rural people

Press Release

At 1100 today, in Taupo, The Minister of Health Andrew Little released Te Pae Tata/Interim Health Plan, mapping out the work programme for the health sector over the next two years.

Hauora Taiwhenua is pleased to see the plan finally released, as the entire sector have been seeking clarity on the direction through which the next two year’s health outcomes will be delivered.

Rural health does get attention throughout the report in its own brief section. This was encouraging to see, but somewhat disappointing that rural populations are not listed under the chapter on Priority Populations.

Hauroa Taiwhenua Chief Executive Dr Grant Davidson, PhD notes the significantly poorer health outcomes of rural populations as a key reason for their inclusion as Priority Populations:

“Rural health outcomes significantly trail those of their urban counterparts and rural Māori being 200% worse off.”

The principal issue facing rural health outcomes is the lack of trained health professionals, and we noted Chair Rob Campbell’s introduction promising a “sustainable and fit-for-purpose workforce”.

Dr Davidson comments, “What this plan fails to provide is any detail on how this sustainable workforce will be delivered, especially in our rural and remote rural areas.

“The plan does recognise that there are acute shortages of GPs, nurses, midwives, and other allied health professionals.

“A Workforce Taskforce has been established to prioritise a national work programme to address workforce pipelines and staffing shortages, but there are no targets, goals, or transparency around how this will be achieved.”

Rural communities will be satisfied with the announcement that they will determine their own geographical areas to be defined as a ‘locality’. This clarification will provide some reassurance that their needs can be planned for specifically, instead of being subsumed within an adjacent urban population.

The Interim Health Plan is strongest for rural people in ensuring health data systems in the future will use the Geographical Classification for Health. This is something Hauora Taiwhenua have been pushing hard for and will mean that all health data can be differentiated according to where people live in Aotearoa.

“The health system will now be able to be held to account for equitable outcomes for rural people in areas such as cancer diagnosis and treatment rates, access to primary care, people living with chronic health conditions, and more,” says Dr Davidson.

“Like all plans, this one is strong on intention and light on delivery details. Hauora Taiwhenua will be working hard to ensure the detail is filled in and the health of rural communities is enhanced through these intentions.”