A new operating theatre at Tauranga's only private hospital performing elective surgery has helped to clear a backlog of patients built up due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
More than 100 elective surgeries have been performed in the new $6 million theatre at Grace Hospital since opening in May.
The theatre also increases Tauranga's capacity for surgeries by 500 per year.
Theatre 7 is one of three new theatres at Grace Hospital and is part of a $9m ongoing development programme.
The development of the theatre has so far contributed to hundreds of construction jobs for the region.
Grace Hospital's general manager Janet Keys said the timing of the new theatre had proved beneficial as it meant being able to help clear the backlog of elective surgery patients built up due to lockdown restrictions.
Keys said the theatre was designed for spinal surgeries and about 120 elective surgeries had already been performed since it opened on May 11.
That was an average of three surgeries a day and about 15 surgeries a week, she said.
"It is quite mindblowing."
Keys said the development, managed by main contractor Fosters Construction, had so far employed more than 350 people and 35 sub-contractors in the Bay of Plenty.
Keys said most of the contractors who worked on the development were local.
"It was good to know we have provided that work in our community. There were some grim times out there and it is good to know we have been able to contribute to that financial security in our region.
"It's gratifying that the company's shareholders, Acurity Health Group and Southern Cross Hospitals, recognise the need for ongoing investment in our region."
Theatre 7 had been fitted out for orthopaedic cases, specifically spinal surgery, but it was capable of hosting other specialities as well.
It included the latest technology including high-definition camera systems and viewing monitors and was one of the first theatres in New Zealand to have an AirFRAME air handling system.
Keys said having the ability to be able to provide a facility that had "world-class and up-to-date" equipment for staff and patients was "ideal".
"It has always been our focus to provide people in the Bay of Plenty with care of the highest quality and the best possible working environment for our medical teams."
Two additional "shell" theatres are also under construction at the hospital site, which will be fitted out when required to meet the needs of the region's growing population.
"It is a bit of a long-term plan," Keys said.
David Bartle, a spinal surgeon at Grace Hospital, had also welcomed the new theatre, which would allow surgeons to provide timely surgical treatment for their patients.
"It's been a real privilege to perform surgery in the new operating theatre," he said.
"It's working very well and the surgical teams love the new technology. The benefits of the layout and new technology to both patients and staff are brilliant."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said health sector spending was one of the top contributors to the local economy.
"The extension to Grace Hospital will not only create more high paying jobs, but it will also benefit local residents who need to access those services."
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said the region's continued growth had led to strength in commercial developments in "top-notch facilities" such as Grace Hospital.
"It's great to see expansion in this area."
Bay of Plenty District Health Board's acting business leader of surgical services, Dorothy McKeown, said due to its response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw non-urgent patients deferred, some patients were experiencing a delay for their elective treatment or procedure.
However, she said patients should be assured that waitlists continue to be prioritised by clinical urgency.
"We continue to work with local private providers on strategies to treat those patients that have experienced extended wait times."