Participants perceive mental illness as a significant and prevalent health issue, one that is not always visible, and see this as an issue that mainly effects women and those who seek out the adventure lifestyle.
“I see a lot of anxiety and undiagnosed depression particularly in females in the area, adult women. There’s no services, just the community. Cups of tea. Biscuits. Time and tissues. It’s so isolated, it’s hard.”
The prevalence of the number of holiday homes is viewed as a negative contribution to mental health as it contributes to social isolation and loneliness.
Although National Park falls within Waikato DHB, given the proximity to Whanganui and Lakes DHB’s and the health services at Taumarunui, Raetihi, and Turangi (all in different DHB’s) there is often confusion as to where to access help. The distance villagers need to travel to access or visit those using health services at Waikato Hospital, is a significant issue.
“I guess here, you can’t be sick. It’s an hour and a half to Taupo or more to Rotorua”.
“For those of us who have conditions, we’re bloody scared. But we get on, but I don’t think we should have to.”
“You have to drive, and there’s a waiting list. But the doctors are full. When I first came I just got in with one and then couldn’t get an appointment for a month. If we were to go to Ohakune for argument’s sake, the doctor there wasn’t taking any more patients so where do you go? To Whanganui? To ED in Taumarunui?”
“It’s where we can get our health providers from is a problem. We sit in the middle, National Park village. And I say that because I go to Taumarunui for medical, but then it all depends on the DHB you fall under… It all depends on where you are you get rejected because you don’t fall under their jurisdiction. So therefore where do you go? I have been declined because of where I live. Because I don’t fall within the Waikato DHB. Then I’ve gone to Wanganui and they decline me because I don’t fall under their DHB. And it’s not a small grey area it’s huge”
In some instances, this is perceived as beneficial as waiting times in one area may be shorter than another. Participants felt communication from health providers needs refining to address the DHB and access to health services confusion.
An elderly community member faced numerous obstacles when wanting to visit their husband receiving cancer care at Waikato Hospital. Unable to drive, this elderly community member had to be driven to Taumarunui, to catch a bus to Hamilton and then commute back in the same manner for a brief visit with their dying partner. Had there not been community support this person will have struggled to see their husband.
Lifeline, public health nurse visits and a mobile dentist are perceived as helpful.
“There’s a really good Public Health Nurse that will come to the school and there’s the mobile dentist. They’re here for two days and they work through all the kids. And they’re from Whanganui whereas the Public Health Nurse is from Waikato. Carroll Street is the boundary, right through the middle of town.”
Despite the community feeling they are “quite healthy” and low medical call out numbers for the volunteer fire service there are considerable concerns about accessing emergency services.
“They (St Johns) can come from Taumarunui. You can wait an hour and a half. If a kid’s choking, they are going to be lucky to live. It’s too much time.”
“If they turn up, they can come from Taumarunui. You can wait an hour and a half. There was a head on crash on Highway 47 and there were five people injured, two of them critical. And by the time the ambulance arrived all five were critical.”
The volunteer fire service is working towards getting a first responder status though there is resistance from St Johns Ambulance.
Despite accessibility concerns, participants feel there are numerous health benefits being surrounded by nature in National Park. It is perceived as particularly beneficial and safe for children. Kids can play and are all generally very fit.