We employ a core clinical team to help staff the bus, including clinical nurse leaders, anaesthetic technicians and drivers. Once on site, local surgeons and anaesthetists join the bus on a daily basis. Four rural nurses from the host site also join the team each day in the roles of scrub nurse, circulating nurse and recovery and discharge nurses.
Rural GPs also come on board, brushing up on skills such as airway management, anatomy and nasal intubation, with some also performing the role of surgical-assist, depending on the speciality.
Patients are referred by their local GP to their DHB who place them on the surgical bus operating list, with procedures selected by each DHB according to local need.
The most common operations include orthopaedic, gynaecological, general (for example hernia), endoscopy (colonoscopy and gastroscopy), plastic and dental procedures.
The surgical bus was designed and manufactured in New Zealand, weighs 42 tonnes and is 4.2 metres high. It is 20 metres in length with a mid-section which extends out to 4.7 metres to accommodate the surgical suite and recovery areas.
Rural patients truly appreciate the convenience of receiving treatment closer to home, allowing them to recover closer to family, whānau and support networks.
Northland patient Bruce Webb had his hernia operation two months ago when the bus was stationed at Dargaville Hospital.
“My experience was absolutely amazing” says Webb. “From the moment I arrived at the hospital, to walking onboard the bus, right through the operation and the after-care, the service was exceptional and thoroughly professional and I couldn’t have asked for more”.