Dannevirke: Rural health, education gets MP's ear

By Christine McKay

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Sharon Wards (left), chief executive of the Tararua Health Group, and Lisa Bond, manager of First Years Preschool, with Alastair Scott, Wairarapa MP, at Monday's Chamber of Commerce lunch time meeting. Photo / Christine McKay
Sharon Wards (left), chief executive of the Tararua Health Group, and Lisa Bond, manager of First Years Preschool, with Alastair Scott, Wairarapa MP, at Monday's Chamber of Commerce lunch time meeting. Photo / Christine McKay

A lunch meeting with Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott in Dannevirke last week was a good opportunity to air issues in a frank way.

Sharon Wards, chief executive of the Tararua Health Group, was keen to share with Mr Scott some of the challenges her organisation faced.

"We are working under a shonky, 20-year-old business model," she said.

"We are in survival mode but we don't have a choice, we have to open our doors.

"There are issues of equality of access for rural people and it's not just cost, it's the time it takes to access services," she said.

"This is an extremely passionate community and rural healthcare needs to be sensitively considered.

"There's a lot of pressure on rural hospitals and I just want to make sure Alastair knows about our rural health issues and they're kept at the forefront, because the funding formula has not kept up.

"We're working under a shonky old business model and we've a bit of catching up to do."

Last Friday, Sharon had another opportunity to put her concerns to Mr Scott and two other National MPs - Ian McKelvie (Rangitikei) and Todd Barclay (Clutha-Southland) - at a Provincial Priorities meeting.

"I've just received the Minister's new health strategy and we have challenges with four different standards we are required to comply with, resulting in four separate costs," she said.

"The irony is all four sets of auditors are looking at the same information. It's duplication, duplication, duplication.

"Delivering services to 16,000 patients in a rural area is very tough but we will be leading changes in rural health delivery in an innovative way. Given some of the innovation rural health does, a common sense approach needs to be taken."

Lisa Bond, manager of the community-owned First Years Preschool, said the early childhood education sector desperately needed more funding.

"We have between 90 and 100 families enrolled with us and we're really struggling for funding. Our last substantial operational funding was in 2009," she said.

"That's a long time."

And the Government's lowering of the the ratio of qualified educators in centres was not a good move, Lisa said. "All educators should be qualified."

Mr Scott said the Government was saying centres didn't need 100 per cent qualified teachers, which Lisa said was "really surprising".

"This is just dumbing down the quality of education being delivered," she said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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