By: Zaryd Wilson
The lack of a permanent doctor in Patea was a talking point handed to the Opposition on a platter last year.
Ten weeks out from an election a community with around 2000 patients was left without a GP, reflecting a national struggle to get doctors to work in rural areas.
Labour Party health spokesperson David Clark tapped into this when he visited.
Health was a priority for his party as was regional development and he wisely linked the two, saying “Health is wealth. If you don’t have health, you don’t have anything”.
Not a lot has changed for Patea since.
Virtual services have been set up, patients have travelled and a locum was bought in on a three-month contract.
He left town at Christmas, another came in for three days, and one starts today for four days. A patchwork service continues.
Things have changed for Mr Clark, however. He is now Minister for Health and his party the Government.
It means Patea’s fight for GP services is now happening under his watch, however little time he’s been in the job.
Mr Clark offered some ideas while he was here, including to recruit more medical students rurally.
Find that bright kid from Patea or Taihape and support them through training and even allow them to do part of that in their home town.
It would help them and their struggling communities while producing doctors more willing to return to rural towns.
It’s an idea worth exploring, but it will take much more than that and some factors may be outside Government control.
No one expects immediate results but Mr Clark used the issue on the campaign trail and so will be measured by his own words.
This year he needs to at least present some sort of plan to solve the problem.
He has a massive task ahead.
Source: NZ Herald