A New Zealand rural hospital study has revealed variable support from district health boards on the Covid-19 response.
In many overseas countries, those living in rural areas have experienced poorer health outcomes as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, than their compatriots living in cities.
The study involved 17 senior doctors in Kiwi rural hospitals, who were interviewed from late 2020, about their experience planning for the pandemic in its early stages.
The study considered their interactions with the local DHB and base-hospital and found there was considerable variability in how well they felt supported by their DHB.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
The study found it was common for the participants to feel both forgotten by the DHB and at the same time overwhelmed by masses of, often contradictory, information that was not always relevant to their situation.
However, established clinical leadership and a stable workforce aided pandemic preparations, as did pre-existing high-quality relationships with the local DHB.
The doctors expressed concern about the ability of their local facilities to handle large numbers of seriously unwell and highly infectious patients but were even more troubled by the ability of the system to transport those needing advanced care to the base hospital.
Having the needs of rural health considered at a national level, rather than DHB by DHB, could have improved the response, participants said.
Many said they were very relieved that the system had not been tested the way it has been in other countries.
The authors concluded that the pandemic experience had highlighted the resilience of rural hospitals, as well as the challenges they faced in operating at the margins of the healthcare system.
Find out more about the study, "Exploring the response to the Covid-19 pandemic at the rural hospital–base hospital interface: experiences of New Zealand rural hospital doctors," here.