Rural women's access to health services will become easier and less stressful once a new mobile health service arrives in the region in mid-December.
"Te Waka Wahine Hauora: The Women's Health Bus", will provide health services, including cervical screening and contraception, to women in Otago and Southland's rural and isolated communities.
Dunedin-based obstetrician, gynaecologist and medical lecturer Dr Helen Paterson, and Junction Health practice co-owner and practice nurse Alice van Zijl, of Cromwell, first began discussing the possibility of establishing a non-profit mobile health service a couple of years ago.
"So many rural women are living with issues and do not have the time to go to Dunedin," Ms van Zijl said.
"We are making it easier to rural women to access the service, without having to driving a long way to see a doctor."
She said it took about seven hours travelling time for a woman travelling from Wanaka to Dunedin for a 20-minute appointment.
Dunstan Hospital's Dr Garry Nixon and other colleagues published a study in 2016, which highlighted the time, travel and accommodation and other costs incurred for rural-based women who needed to travel to Dunedin for appointments and procedures.
"Dr Nixon's study estimated it cost about $700, including one overnight stay, for rural women, compared to about $80 for those living in Dunedin," Dr Paterson said.
Since then, the women have identified the needs that have been unmet in more isolated areas, and researched the costs of providing the service.
The 6.8m Mercedes Benz Sprinter mobile home is being custom-built by a specialist company in Auckland, and is expected to cost about $300,000, not including stock.
It will have video conferencing, its own generator and stabilisers so it can work in more remote locations.
Dr Paterson has provided the company with an interest-free loan to pay for the vehicle's building and fit out.
They have also been talking to potential funders as well as the Southern DHB and other health providers about contracts.
They expect funding to come from health contracts, local communities and other organisations, grants, insurance funding, donations and patient payments.
Ms van Zijl said they would like to include a "pay it forward" system where one woman, in addition to paying for her own appointment, could pay for another's who might not be able to afford one.
Nurse practitioners, who have a similar scope and level of care as general practitioners, would work with the service and it would loop through Otago and Southland in a regular circuit.
Rural Women New Zealand's Lower South Island committee chairwoman Gill Naylor said Dr Paterson had approached them seeking funding.
"It is a wonderful initiative and it will be great to see health services going to the region," Mrs Naylor said.
"It will be better outcomes for living rurally and will be far less stressful [than travelling to Dunedin]."