Recently, the Mobile Surgical Unit – Te Waka Hauora stayed one weekend in Gore to complete additional dental surgeries to reduce the patient waiting list.

The clinical team worked through the weekend and completed 16 dental surgeries on children aged between three and 14, and included dental extraction, fillings and fitting stainless steel crowns.

Tim Mackay, oral health advisor for the Southern District, understands the importance of these surgeries and organised for the surgical unit to stay the weekend. “Most of these children had broken down and abscessed teeth and were requiring a lot of support at home to manage their pain and infection,” Tim says. “Multiple abscessed and broken teeth are some of the most common dental issues seen in children. Gore and Mataura don’t have water fluoridation, so the decay tends to be more extensive than children from Invercargill and Bluff.” Adding that the waiting list for surgery is currently five months.

“Thanks to these additional surgeries our waiting list is the lowest it has been for children since 2021 – just over three months.”

The surgical unit was in Gore on the Friday on its normal schedule, and the weekend surgeries were in addition to the contract Mobile Health has with the Ministry of Health. The 16 dental surgeries performed on children were significant, and they highlight the impact that the mobile surgical unit can have on people’s lives.

Tim shares his experience of reconstructing a four year old’s smile after all their front teeth were decaying, and finds it rewarding in knowing “…that kids will be sleeping and eating better, and homes not being disrupted during the night with children with toothache.”

Based in Invercargill, Tim has been the advisor to Mobile Health since 2021 and has been regularly completing surgeries on the surgical unit since 2003 when it visits Gore, Queenstown, Balclutha, Dunstan and Oamaru.

“It is the most amazing team to work with. While there is change, everyone is there for the patients no matter where I work, it brings services close to home. Mobile Health is super supportive and it’s great to be able to influence how health services are delivered.”

On occasion, the surgical unit is able to complete surgeries on the weekend, depending on staff availability and hosting from the local site.

“With the current pressure on the health system, it is great to be able to provide extra surgical lists closer to where patients live,” Mark Eager, Mobile Health chief executive says.

The extended stay in Gore meant the clinical team and driver packed up the surgical unit on Sunday evening and travelled to Dunstan. Arriving on Monday morning ready to provide surgical care to patients.