New agreement good news for rural surgical service

A mobile surgical service for rural areas is celebrating an extension of its contract, saying it will enable greater delivery of surgery solutions to rural New Zealand.

The New Zealand Mobile Surgical Service has an agreement in principle with the Ministry of Health to extend its operating contract from one to three years.

The mobile surgical service operates from a custom-built truck containing a full operating theatre and services 24 communities from Kaikohe to Balclutha.

The service has provided mobile surgery for 23,500 mostly rural and provincial patients since 2002, allowing patients to avoid lengthy travel and be treated in their own communities.

Chief executive Mark Eager said the mobile surgical service has emerged as a trusted and innovative way to ensure equitable health service levels for rural New Zealand.

"We've recently been struggling with a one-year service contract in terms of the need to continue to invest in our service and to offer highly-skilled staff sufficient employment terms," he said.

"As a result of discussions with the Ministry of Health, we have just agreed a three-year contract term for the service, running from June 2019 to June 2022," said Mr Eager.

The details of the contract will be sorted early in the New Year, however he said the agreement is good news.

"This gives us, and rural communities across New Zealand, certainty in our service and enables us to invest in our people and in the service," he said.

Mark Eager said under the contract extension, the Mobile Surgical Education Programme and Telehealth Resource Centre provided by the service would continue as professional development and staff recruitment and retention tools in rural New Zealand.

"We're acutely aware of the challenges in providing rural health services in New Zealand, and welcome the commitment from the Government and the Ministry to providing the certainty we need," he said.