Tararua is on a "hiding to nothing," when it comes to reinstating the axed cancer nurse, New Zealand First deputy leader Ron Mark says.
The MidCentral District Health board has axed funding for the clinical nurse specialist who worked four days a week for the Tararua Health Group and was subcontracted to Rangitane once a week.
The decision has left 400 cancer patients with no nurse, putting pressure on other health professionals and straining resources.
"There is no substitute for having the cancer nurse service locally. Cancer is a major contributor to mortality in Tararua, so why wouldn't you have a cancer nurse here?" Mr Mark said at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting in Dannevirke last week.
"There are serious questions which need to be asked of MidCentral DHB.
"I think you [Tararua] are on a hiding to nothing here.
"You have to question the relevance of the MidCentral board to the Tararua district. Why not go the Wairarapa way?"
Mr Mark said the current funding model was flawed, a view with which Tararua Health Group chief executive Sharon Wards agreed.
"You [Tararua] are lumped into an area where there is projected to be a population of 180,000 population, but the rural element hasn't been factored in," Mr Mark said.
"People sitting in air-conditioned offices in Palmerston North are making decisions for this rural population and along with the problems of time and distance, we're also talking about areas with no cellphone coverage.
"I think the format for funding is wrong because people who are making these decisions aren't conversant with your problems."
Ms Wards said the pressure on services was extremely difficult.
"The cracks continue to widen," she said.
MidCentral health board chairwoman Dot McKinnon had earlier said she was very aware of the concerns expressed by Ms Wards.
"We'd like to put more funding into primary health care, but running Palmerston North Hospital is costing more and more. But we are absolutely focused on supporting communities," she said.
Meanwhile, Dannevirke Community Board member Terry Hynes wants his board to urgently push the MidCentral District Health Board to reinstate the cancer nurse.
"We had a very successful public forum at the recent health board meeting here in Dannevirke, but there hasn't been any follow-up," he said.
"We've got to make sure the DHB knows we're not going away."
Community board chairman Ross MacDonald agreed.
"If nothing is done they [DHB] will just keep cutting our services," he said.
"Rural-proofing our health services is essential.
"Because people choose to live in a rural community they shouldn't be disadvantaged."
Other health services the community board members were concerned about were the lack of drug and alcohol and mental health programmes, especially in Dannevirke.
Mr Hynes said they were "long overdue".
"I also want the health board to serious consider the delivery of their renal services.
"People have to travel to Palmerston North for their dialysis and the health board needs to consider establishing a renal unit at our community hospital."
At its monthly meeting in Dannevirke, the MidCentral DHB indicated it would be looking at home dialysis.
Community board member Pat Walshe said it was important the board "got in behind and pushed and shoved" on the issues.