Rural health initiatives constrained by dearth of funding

Work on initiatives aimed at improving health services for rural areas has been paused while the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand fights for its own survival.

RHAANZ last week hauled up the shutters, saying without government funding it would be forced to close permanently.

The future of projects such as RHAANZ's work on rural suicide prevention and boosting the rural health work force has been placed at risk by the move.

``We are in limbo as we have literally run out of money,'' RHAANZ chairman Martin London said.

``The office is paralysed, apart from carrying out the contracts which are already put in place and contracted, but beyond that we can't do anything.''

A registered charity, RHAANZ is funded by member's fees and sponsorships.

However, that has proven inadequate, hence the approach to the Government.

There are only two other national rural health alliances in the world, and both received central funding, Dr London said.

Public reaction to RHAANZ's plight had been encouraging although no official response had yet been made, Dr London said.

That might be forthcoming on Thursday, when RHAANZ is scheduled to meet Rural Communities Minister Damien O'Connor to discuss funding.

The organisation had been due to meet the minister earlier this year to discuss funding but that was cancelled after Mr O'Connor's father died. The delay forced RHAANZ to take drastic action.

``From overseas, we know that without core funding it is very difficult for an organisation like this to continue beyond the establishment phase. We are not disclosing numbers at this stage ... but it is a significant figure we couldn't raise from members or sponsorship.''

More than 600,000 people lived in rural New Zealand, equivalent to being the country's second largest city.


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