OPINION: The last minute decision by Health Minister Andrew Little to give the rural community some status in the new health reforms bill - Pae Ora Healthy Futures, is a victory, but there never should have been a fight over this.
Initially, a special strategy for rural was in the bill - along with strategies for Maori, Pacifica, women and people with disabilities. However, rural was taken out by the Labour Party majority on the select committee.
This led to a chorus of criticism to Labour's health reforms and the fact that 'rural' was not seen as a priority.
Critics said the new structure that is supposed to deliver better health outcomes for NZ wouldn't do this for people who live in rural regions.
Chair of the Rural General Practice Network, Dr Fiona Bolden strongly criticised the omission of 'rural' saying it was outrageous and left 750,000 people enrolled in rural practices out in the wilderness. National's health spokesperson, Dr Shane Reti opposed the move, as did Act's Brooke van Velden who proposed an amendment to the bill calling for the rural health strategy to be reinstated in the bill.
Little has now effectively rejected his own party's recommendations from the select committee and is now claiming Labour's 'rural caucus' convinced him to change his mind.