The Ensign Column Joseph Mooney MP - June 2022


The Minister of Health Andrew Little has suddenly introduced an amendment to his Pae Ora Healthy Futures Bill at the very last minute called a "Rural Health Strategy".

This follows his announcement in March 2022 that his "Government is committed to building a new national health system so all New Zealanders can get the health care they need no matter who they are or where they live."

They aim to achieve this through the Pae Ora Healthy Futures Bill, which comes into effect on 1 July 2022 and replaces the 20 District Health Boards with a crown organisation, Health New Zealand.

However, what was glaringly missing was a focus on rural health in their reform plans for a national health system.

Rural communities and the health care workforce, including midwives, nurses and the aged care sector, have unique challenges.

The shortages in the sector impact the quality of care to communities in our region and the mental health and welfare of our rural health workforce.

Midwives who I’ve spoken to, say they find it hard to continue providing a world-class rural maternity service in rural areas due to their current working environment, and due to a lack of available midwives to service the whole region.

Aged Care is another sector who say they are in crisis. At a recent meeting with the NZ Aged Care Association, they cited underinvestment by the Government, lack of policy or funding mechanisms to increase the supply of care beds to meet increasing demand and complexity of needs, and the turnover of Registered Nurses (RNs) of 48% (an increase of 15% since December 2019), and of caregivers (26%), as some of the top issues they face.

One proposed solution could be a focus on encouraging graduates, experienced RNs and Nursing Practitioner interns to view aged residential care as a desirable career choice.

Overall, there are currently 2,200 FTE nursing vacancies across New Zealand.  These shortages also affect people needing specialist services, like cancer treatment.

Some cancer patients wait excessive times to be seen by a specialist, and the funding for cancer services has not kept up with demand.

Just like the Southland Charity Hospital, the Cancer Society has had to turn to seek donations to enable them to continue caring for patients in their care. 

While the Government has now come to the table by including a 'rural health strategy' in their thinking, any such strategy must provide pathways to grow our rural health workforce and sufficiently fund it to ensure good health outcomes for our local communities.

In the meantime, I have started a fundraising campaign for the Cancer Society to try and raise as much money as I can to highlight their plight. Should I manage to raise more than $1,000, I intend to jump out of a plane to show my support to those living with cancer and create a future with less cancer in our society.

I invite you to join my journey at