MEDIA RELEASES

Mobile surgical ‘bus’ to carry out 20,000th operation in Dargaville

The nationwide mobile surgical ‘bus’ will be carrying out its 20,000th operation at Dargaville Hospital next Tuesday 22 March.

The ‘bus’, which visits rural communities throughout New Zealand, is a $5.2 million customised truck and trailer which Jen Thomas, operations manager of both Dargaville and Bay of Islands hospitals for Northland DHB, describes as ‘an operating theatre on wheels’. It expands out hydraulically and contains a pre-operative area, a full operating theatre, a small recovery area and two utility areas.

The bus provides day surgery – procedures such as general surgery, child dental, opthamology, colonoscopies and minor orthopaedic operations – to patients who are carefully selected to ensure they will be well enough to go home at the end of the day, when the bus leaves for the next town.

The 20,000th operation will be a child dental procedure.

Jen Thomas says the bus first came to Dargaville in December 2003 – about nine years after surgical services at Dargaville Hospital were closed in 1994.

“The advantage of the bus is that the service comes to the community, rather than the other way round,” she says. “This reduces the cost and inconvenience of travelling for surgery for patients and their family/whanāu and support people

“We also find that kids in particular may be apprehensive about their surgery but are more willing to get on the bus.

“And importantly, the bus has provided our staff with the ability to upskill – for nurses to work in a surgical setting again.”

Over 12 years, almost 2000 people have been treated in the bus in the Northland region. The bus has made more than 100 visits to Dargaville, with 800 patients have been seen.

Jen Thomas adds that the operator of the bus, Christchurch-based Mobile Health also provides other services including the rural health education hub which has provided valuable education sessions via teleconference from Christchurch, and the NZ Telehealth Resource Centre.

Andrew Panckhurst of Mobile Health says the bus has travelled a total of 700,000 kilometres since it began service in March 2002. Regular scheduled maintenance, including replacing its original engine, has ensured that despite the challenges of weather and the logistics of moving town every night, it has seldom missed a scheduled day of surgery.






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