A new neurosurgeon is, hopefully, finally, coming to Dunedin.
Southern District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming made the surprise announcement yesterday during the board's annual review appearance before Parliament's health select committee.
The University of Otago, which has co-hired the surgeon with the SDHB, later confirmed the appointment.
The appointee, who has not been named nor their country of origin stated, would assume the Otago and Southland Chair in Neurosurgery, university health sciences pro-vice-chancellor Paul Brunton said.
"I am delighted that after a lengthy, global search, an appointment has been made," he said.
"The full-time position is split 50:50 between clinical and research work."
The Chair was founded in 2011 and funded by a campaign supported by the Otago Daily Times, which raised more than $2.3million of the $3 million for the position.
Its initial appointee, Prof Dirk de Ridder, a neurology researcher, subsequently stepped back from the surgical work associated with the Chair to focus solely on research.
Fleming said the appointee was expected to arrive late this year and, pending Medical Council of New Zealand registration, would work for six months in Christchurch before coming to Dunedin.
"We have learned from some of the decisions in the past where we grabbed the person who would come to our location," Fleming said.
"We need to make sure that they are actually right for this location to be a long-term, sustainable solution."
Neurosurgery was almost lost from Dunedin Hospital in 2009 after a proposal that the service be centralised in Christchurch.
A determined campaign, which featured a 10,000-strong protest march and a 40,000-plus signature petition, kept the service in Dunedin, but its prospects of survival have been tenuous.
Despite the intention for it to have three surgeons, the service has never employed its full complement and for several years has had only one surgeon, Ahmad Taha.
When Taha is unavailable, patients have had to be transferred to Christchurch, a major contributor to the SDHB exceeding its allocation for air ambulance services by tens of thousands of dollars in recent budgets.
Attracting neurosurgeons has been a major problem for the SDHB and university, and so has been getting doctors and surgeons approved to work here by the Medical Council, which has the sole right to register them to practice.
This week it emerged the council had declined to register Hungarian and British-trained surgeon Lucas Rakasz, who has moved to Dunedin and is still pursuing a position with the neurosurgery service.
Dr Rakasz, whose application was backed by several prominent surgeons, including the president of the British Neurological Society, is challenging the council's decision in court.