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Monday, 16 May 2016 11:55

Connectivity – a rural health and wellbeing issue

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RHĀNZ Chairperson, Dr Jo Scott-Jones, says access is the vital issue. RHĀNZ Chairperson, Dr Jo Scott-Jones, says access is the vital issue.

Linking rural health centres to broadband and a rapid reduction in mobile "black spots" around rural NZ are key areas of focus for RHĀNZ.

These critical areas were identified by the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHĀNZ) following the 2016 Rural Connectivity Symposium.

RHĀNZ is a peak organisation with 42 member organisations, all interested in the health and wellbeing of rural communities.

RHĀNZ Chairperson, Dr Jo Scott-Jones, says access is the vital issue.

"If rural issues can be summarised in a single word it would be 'access'. Improved connectivity enables specialised health services to reach out into rural communities and for patients to link from home into their GP clinics. With rapid internet in rural communities we could develop and deliver more innovative health solutions with greater efficiency," he says.

Mobile black spots, especially along state highways in rural NZ, create unacceptable risks to the safety of tourists and residents.

"People working rurally are often required to work in isolation and in remote areas, being able to communicate is an important safety issue.

"Prospective staff members in both health services and other industries are often reluctant to move to rural areas where connectivity standards are sub-standard. This has impacts on the recruitment and retention of rural health providers into the regions."

RHĀNZ wants all of New Zealand to have access to affordable, reliable internet and mobile coverage and says there is a clear need for increased investment to achieve this for people living rurally.

"We applaud the government's initiatives to enhance connectivity in rural areas, we just want it sooner," Dr Scott-Jones says.

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