Surgery team on highway to health

By Annette Lambly

When a mobile surgical bus was mooted 11 years ago it was seen as a bold initiative that many found hard to comprehend.

Since then, more than 16,000 patients - 1500 of them Northlanders - have had surgical procedures and the service has proven to be a robust way of delivering healthcare to rural and remote communities.

Proponents say no other service in the world offers a comparable service. Yet it seems few people know it exists.

Since it first visited Dargaville in December 2003, the mobile surgery has treated 550 local patients.

The Rotary Club of Dargaville is keen to spread the good word, not only on the success of the service, but what it can offer potential patients. It will host a public presentation on July 31 at which Mobile Health general manager Mark Eager will show how the "Surgery on Wheels" stays on the road, all day, every day, travelling to 23 rural locations throughout New Zealand.

The 40-tonne, 20-metre long truck and trailer contains an operating theatre, and its fully trained staff are supported by four nurses from each location.

Procedures include dental, endoscopy, ear, nose and throat, gynaecology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, plastic surgery and urology.

Patients appreciate being treated in their home town, close to their support networks. The service operates on patients from the public waiting list, and works with district health boards to treat priority patients.

Mobile Health Services who operate the mobile surgery work in partnership with the Ministry of Health, DHBs and local health providers to deliver not only surgery, but education and video collaboration services to rural New Zealand.

In addition to the hands-on clinical training received on the bus,

in the last 10 years more than 35,000 hours of training and education have been provided at more than 35 rural locations and more than 40,000 hours to rural health professionals. Dementia and delirium, diabetes and food choices, and acute cardiac compromise were among recent education sessions in Dargaville.

The public presentation will be held at the Methodist Church Complex, corner Awakino Rd and Normanby St, Dargaville today at 7.30pm.


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