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Surgery Driven To The Patients

Surgery Driven To The Patients

New Zealand today (Wednesday 11 May) showed off its futuristic surgical bus by video link to a meeting in Auckland of anaesthetists, intensive care and pain specialists from around the world.

The bus has re-established safe day surgery in New Zealand’s smallest hospitals, according to a spokesman for the Mobile Surgical Service. It utilises up-skilled local nurses and a mobile operating suite travelling on a regular circuit and visiting some 20 hospitals for a day every five weeks, Regional surgeons and anaesthetists are used wherever possible.

During today’s demonstration to delegates attending the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, the bus was several hundred kilometres away in the small town of Wairoa, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Video links allowed the audience to question the “on-board” anaesthetist and learn of its success in taking surgery to the patients.

The bus is 20 metres long, weighs 39 tonnes and cost $5.2 million. It is fitted as a mobile operating theatre including an IDAS safety system, which recognises drugs by bar code, reports by voice and checks for incompatibility with other drugs the patient has been given, an operating microscope and phaco machine, which turns cataracts into fragments and ‘vacuums’ them from the patient’s eye.

Having provided almost 3,500 day surgery operations in three and a half years – almost 70 per cent of them under general anaesthetic - the service has been so successful that its funding has been extended for another five years.

The Director of the Mobile Surgical Service, Dr Stuart Gowland, said the unit could handle almost any degree of complexity and through its sophisticated communication links allowed real time broadcast quality video collaboration with regional and major hospitals.

“This way, surgical teams with expert specialist knowledge can become ‘virtual assistants’ to rural or provincial teams, providing backup and input in difficult or unusual operations.

“Experts assisting from a distance can independently direct cameras viewing the surgical action to help them advise the on-board surgical team,” Dr Gowland said.

The potential of the mobile facility was almost unlimited.

“Echocardiographs, digital retinal cameras, uroflow meters and bone densitometers on board allow GPs to offer these services to their patients,” Dr Gowland said

“The unit has the potential to ‘teleport’ live operations or training modules to medical professionals anywhere in the world, and a pilot project is planned soon to demonstrate the potential to a conference in Europe and North America,” he said.

In New Zealand, the Government provides the services of the bus free to patients.


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