RWNZ National Council had a trial run of some of their hard questions when the Minister of Health, the Hon Tony Ryall, visited the recent National Council meeting. Contrary to expectation, the Minister did not use time to talk exclusively about party politics. In fact, after the introductions, he sat down at the table and asked us what we wanted to talk about.
The Council asked him specifically to review the effectiveness of the 2007 Fair Travel Policy for home support workers who have to use their vehicles to travel to clients in rural areas with very limited recompense (about 20c per km). Few, if any, other workers in New Zealand are required to self fund travelling between various places of work several times per day.
Mr Ryall said he would re-evaluate the policy and asked for some specific examples of support workers who have been disadvantaged.
He was asked to make home based support services, often the Cinderella area of health funding and status, higher up on the priority list, especially when considering inflation price adjustments. He said he would look at it if re-elected.
Other topics covered during the hour-plus meeting included the need for more support for rural-based midwives, the advances in technology related dementia care, and rural dental health which Mr Ryall said is increasingly becoming a major problem for the over 65’s age group, as well as for rural children.
The Minister’s future specific targets included shorter waiting times for elective surgery, cancer treatment and emergency department consults; a 90% immunisation rate for 2 year-olds, affordable stop smoking programmes and more focus on cardio vascular disease and diabetes.
As he left the Rural Women New Zealand office complete with a pair of Corporate Aftersocks, Mr Ryall thanked Rural Women New Zealand “for all that you do”.
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