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Access to health services is perceived by Owhango residents as a burden, as such the help of others is frequently required.

“We had a friend who needed an ultrasound. And he couldn’t get it in Taumarunui so we had to drive him all the way to Waikato Hospital for an ultrasound, and yet the vets have got an ultrasound. It’s a bloody long drive just for that. “

“If you know people around the village who are sick, you take them. We all pitch in.”

Poor communication by health providers, especially those based outside of district, is also viewed as a major contributor to health problems. Locals have travelled two hours to Hamilton despite a specialist visiting a nearby town. Many locals seem unaware of the travel allowance.

“I was going to Waikato back and forward, back and forward, back and forward, and then they said, ‘Oh, he (the doctor) goes to Te Kuiti, you can go there to see him.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, I wish they’d told me that months ago.’ And it was really good, but not a lot come to Taumarunui.”

“In the last 15 months I’ve actually told so many people about the travel allowance, they don’t know anything about it. But they pay you after, not before it. So you still have to get yourself there. All the ones I talked to in the village didn’t know about it. And these are the older people. That was one thing I felt sorry for, because I knew."

Waiting times to see a primary care physician were also a matter of concern and frustration which is supported by statistics released by the Waikato DHB which indicate that northern Ruapehu residents have access to the equivalent of 3.9 GP’s per 10,000. This is significantly less than the Waikato District at 5.9 per 10,000.

“My mum needed an appointment and she couldn’t get a doctor, and she had to wait. Three weeks”

‘You do have to book ahead. A short time ago it seemed they had enough doctors and you didn’t have to wait.”

“The issue is they don’t have enough doctors and they don’t want to stay. They want to live in cities. Although ours has been there forever, though he’s so overworked. I think doctors are posted here not because of choice, and once that time’s up they move on”

However once primary care had been assessed, the cost to see the Doctor was not seen as a burden.

“We must have the cheapest cost of visiting a doctor in the whole of New Zealand. My sister in Auckland they pay $65 or $75 to visit the doctor and we pay $15. She could not believe it. And kids are free.

Villagers are strongly concerned with the difficulty accessing timely mental health services especially when an immediate response is required.

“I took a person up to the hospital at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and they were beside themselves the doctor said, ‘It’s late in the afternoon and I won’t be able to get hold of mental health services.”

“I don’t think people know how to access help for mental illness here. If someone needs help you’re tough out of luck.”

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