Waikato Hospital's Women's Health Service is establishing a Gynaecological Centre of Excellence which aims to improve the care and wellbeing of women across the Midland region.
The centrepiece is the new Midlands Advanced Laparscopic-Endometriosis Training Programme based at the hospital. The launch of the course also coincides with Endometriosis Awareness Month taking place throughout March.
The aim of the course is to upskill surgeons from the Te Manawa Taki region, which comprises the Bay of Plenty, Lakes, Hauora Tairāwhiti, Taranaki and Waikato DHBs.
Participants work through a year-long modular system culminating in individual proctorship and accreditation in Surgical Leadership through Sydney's Macquarie University.
The course includes hands-on skill development in laparoscopic surgery techniques as well as detailed theoretical components which will improve the competency to treat endometriosis.
The first participants in the advanced training programme will undertake their first session in May 2021.
Clinical Director of Gynaecology Dr Tava Mudzamiri says the programme aims to reduce the need for patients to travel to Waikato Hospital for specialised treatment.
"The programme came about as recognition of the need for these services across the Te Manawa Taki area. We realise there's a gap in the skill level and we want to give Senior Medical Officers and consultants the expertise to look after women in their regions," he says.
Dr Mudzamiri says the ultimate goal is to produce leaders who can influence women's health surgery in their DHBs.
Endometriosis is a common disease which affects 1-in-10 women in New Zealand and has significant impacts on their personal and professional lives.
The predominant symptom is significant and debilitating pelvic pain with or without a period.
Waikato DHB's director of women's and children's health, Michelle Sutherland, says the programme is an important step in giving women better access to treatment.
"The result of this course will be that those who complete it can return to their respective DHBs with new knowledge which will make a difference to the lives of women in their areas.
"It also means women will have increasing access to treatment options which are closer to home," she says.
Dr Tarek Saleh, the Australasian Gynaecological Endoscopy and Surgery Society (AGES) training director at Waikato Hospital says that until recently, Waikato DHB was the only New Zealand centre accredited by AGES to train doctors to be advanced laparoscopic surgeons focusing on women's health. Auckland DHB has now also been accredited.
The training programme is just one of several ways Waikato DHB is leading the way in women's health.
Dr Mudzamiri says as a tertiary centre, Waikato Hospital has developed expertise in the sub-specialty fields of urogynaecology and minimally invasive surgery, particularly advanced laparoscopic surgery which focuses on complex cases of endometriosis.
Waikato Hospital has a unique and dedicated regional endometriosis team which holds multi-disciplinary meetings to discuss complex cases.
These meetings bring together specialists, including gynaecology radiologists, advanced laparoscopic gynaecology surgeons, urologists and colorectal surgeons, for pre-operative assessments and to formulate treatment plans. This helps to ensure that women in the Midlands area receive the right level of care.
Staffing at Waikato DHB has also increased to three full-time advanced laparoscopic surgeons who focus on women with endometriosis.
Two dedicated endometriosis clinics are held every week, while the hospital has also put aside dedicated theatre sessions.
For more information about endometriosis, you can visit the Endometriosis New Zealand website or talk with your GP.