Thursday, December 9

A study highlights the dangerous disconnection of the face of a rural hospital as the specter of Covid-19 looms

Rural hospital doctors report a lack of support from DHBs during the first Covid-19 outbreak, in new research from the University of Otago.

Small rural hospital in Waipukurau.

Small rural hospitals like this one in Waipukurau have long been forgotten, research suggests.
Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Dr. Kati Blattner from the University of Otago says there is a disconnect between different parts of the healthcare system when it comes to transferring patients that often ignores both local experience and geography.

“This research focuses on a sector of our healthcare system that is generally invisible, as we see it here, at the end of the trickle line,” he said. Morning report.

The study involved interviewing 17 senior New Zealand doctors at 17 different rural hospitals about their experiences in planning for the pandemic. He specifically looked at problems in how to transfer patients to other, larger hospitals so they could receive advanced respiratory care.

“It means negotiating access, getting a transfer accepted, organizing an ambulance or a helicopter pickup,” Blattner said.

The barriers were obvious. St John’s policies, for example, are not tailored to the transfer of people with respiratory problems.

“St Johns itself as an organization is great,” he said. “It’s just a disconnect between the three players here. A disconnect between the local health services in the local areas. They have a lot of experience in their own geography and their own people.

“Then you have the regional DHB policies and plans and you add the national St Johns policies and procedures and you get this interface, which is not consistent for patients in rural areas.”

Blattner works in Hokianga in the far north. He said some progress has been made since 2020, but the problem of rural hospital neglect persists and is a continuing cause for concern as Covid-19 begins to spread to communities, he said.

“There is good support at the national level for general practice and for different specialties, but rural hospitals are forgotten and that puts our rural patients and also our rural health professionals at risk.

“It’s just about understanding the rural context and what would be great if DHBs in their planning for patient scenarios, patient trips, considered the rural hospital as part of that journey.

“So that leaders, especially Maori leaders, represent rural hospitals at the table when they start talking about planning, not just throwing the plan at us when they’ve already done it and then we strive to try to stay on track. plan.”

She says rural hospitals are working hard to serve their communities, but steps must be taken to support those efforts.

Rural communities are now concerned about the Christmas period, when people come to visit during the holidays and now local health services could cope with the spread of Covid-19, “added Blattner.

“If the study does nothing more than raise awareness across the country that rural health services and hospitals are only managing to meet the needs of rural communities,” he said.

He said that rural communities are now concerned about the Christmas period, when people come on vacation and now local health services could cope with the spread of Covid-19.

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