It may look almost like any other truck - but inside there's an operating theatre.

More than 21335 people have been operated onboard - in 24 different towns.

New Zealand's mobile surgical "bus" has just celebrated 15 years' serving rural communities - where accessing health care can often present with issues.

"Steerologist," or driver, Gavin Hurring, says those issues are often: "Where am I going to park, do we have to get a motel for the night... have to take two days off work, whereas we come to them."


Mr Hurring has been driving the "bus" since day one.

He's also responsible for its deployment, ensuring onboard systems can safely support the mobile theatre - and manning what he calls, "the Mudguard Cafe". This is when the medical team, from time-to-time, are treated to a cooked lunch and Mr Hurring sets up an electric frying pan outside next to the truck's wheels.

"Nickname Cinderella - making lunch, first two questions of the day are have you made the coffee and what's for lunch," he says.

Previously, Mr Hurring hadn't ventured north of Dunedin - but, within 21 days - he'd driven the length of the country.

"I could just about tell you where every pot-hole in New Zealand is."

A driver, charge nurse, and anaesthetic technician work to a five-week schedule.

Each day they're joined by more health professionals from where they've stopped.

They celebrated their 15th anniversary in Waipukurau, with a day of dentistry.

Waipawa dentist Stephen Jenkinson shut up shop for the day to perform the surgeries.

"Children that either have difficult procedures that need doing, or sometimes it's a lot of treatment, and instead of them having a lot of multiple visits to dental therapists we can pop them off to sleep and they can get it all done at once."

The Ministry of Health provides $4 million to Mobile Health Solutions annually, enabling rural residents better access to low-risk elective day surgery.

Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand Chief Executive Michelle Thompson says: "It really is about honouring the Government's intent of bringing health care services closer to home."

Not only do they provide education for medical students and development for rural health professionals, they also play a role in cutting down waiting lists.

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