Doctors warn people will die if rural communities not prioritised in new health reform

Doctors are warning people will die unless rural communities are prioritised in the Government's planned health reform.

The new Bill, which scraps all 20 DHBs, had its second reading in Parliament on Tuesday night.

Keith Blayney worked as a rural GP for over 40 years. It's a job he feels is under-valued and under-funded.

"We feel neglected, yet we feel we are the keystone of the main part of the health system."

And he believes the reform of the health system won't improve that.

"We're getting the same thing but with more bureaucrats."

Under the reform, all 20 DHBs will be replaced with a single organisation known as Health NZ. It will have up to 80 community hubs to advise Health NZ on what's needed in that area.

But the Rural General Practice Network says it still neglects the 750,000 Kiwis enrolled with rural GPs.

"We were gobsmacked, we're distraught. The rural population of NZ is being left on the shelf as far as we are concerned," CEO Dr Grant Davidson told Newshub.

And Dr Davidson warned of the impact on their patients: "We're talking people dying, that's what it's about."

The group wants rural communities to be a priority category in the new health system.

The National Party wants rural GPs to have a say in the reforms.

Its health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti said general practitioners are not represented on the Health NZ board.

"What about exhausted rural GPs? GPs, and in fact primary care, don't even have a representative on the Health NZ board."

Health Minister Andrew Little said: "Part of the problem with rural health services is there are old-fashioned business models that don't work anymore.

"Rural health needs will get much more attention through the locality planning network process."

The health reform is expected to take effect from July 1, 2022, but GPs say they haven't seen any details about what it'll mean for them, and how funding will work. They fear the gigantic shortage of GPs will only get worse.

"We've been calling it a crisis until now, now we are calling it an emergency," Dr Davidson told Newshub.