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National is urging the Government to support the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) with ongoing funding, National Party associate spokesperson for Health Dr Shane Reti and National Party spokesperson for Rural Communities Matt King say.

“National recognises that rural communities in New Zealand have different needs and face special challenges, especially when it comes to accessing health services,” Dr Reti says.

“We support the RHAANZ’s request for ongoing operating funding outside their existing contracts to ensure that rural communities have access to the services that they need.

“RHAANZ provides information, advocacy and solutions to issues that affect the health and wellbeing of rural communities. It also provides access to vital support for rural mental health including suicide prevention workshops and clinical champions in mental health.

“The Minister of Rural Communities Damien O’Connor and Minister of Health David Clark’s reluctance to commit to RHAANZ shows that they have no understanding of the challenges involved in providing health care in rural communities.”

National Party spokesperson for Rural Communities Matt King says that it is greatly concerning that the RHAANZ may be forced to begin the wind-down process within the next fortnight.

“We understand the funding bid was put to the Minister of Rural Communities Damien O’Connor and Minister of Health David Clark last November and to date RHAANZ have heard nothing,” Mr King says.

“RHAANZ provides support to around 600,000 New Zealanders and we encourage the Ministers to confirm that they will fund RHAANZ urgently.

“At the moment we are unsure what will happen to the RHAANZ’s 16 regional mental health clinical champions and medical director who help rural communities to access professional mental health services, as well as the RHAANZ’s general function to identify and resource solutions for rural health.

“The Health Minister is also refusing to confirm his support of a School of Rural Medicine, which a National-led Government had committed to establish within three years.

“This coalition Government claims to be the champion of regional and rural New Zealand but delaying any commitment to RHAANZ does not support this claim.”

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