Surgeon remodels service
Nelson Hospital’s new vascular surgeon has helped to create a regional service to provide better care for those needing treatment for blocked arteries and aneurysms.
Dr Carmen Ruiz moved to New Zealand from Scotland where she worked as a vascular surgeon for close to 20 years.
Prior to her arrival, the vascular surgeon role at Nelson Marlborough Health had been vacant for 18 months, during which time the health board had spent more than $2m sending patients outside the region for treatment.
Since her arrival, Ruiz has been influential in setting up a regional vascular service between Christchurch and the top of the south.
Vascular surgery involves the treatment of arteries and veins and Ruiz said the majority of her workload involved dealing with people who had blockages or narrowing of the arteries, or aneurysms which was the result of the artery being too large.
She regularly treated people with venous ulcers and aneurysms, mostly around the abdominal area and in the legs.
Ruiz said vascular surgery was a complex speciality that had changed significantly in the last 15 years.
What was previously done through open surgery, could now be fixed with endovascular surgery, which was minimally invasive and similar to keyhole surgery.
The regionalised service meant that while Ruiz was based in Nelson, she consulted with Christchurch surgeons on individual cases and would travel to Christchurch every 10 weeks to spend a week working on call.
Under the agreement, patients who needed urgent vascular treatment after hours were sent to Christchurch and would then return to Nelson for follow up care with Ruiz.
It was not cost effective for smaller DHBs to provide some specialised services, and specialists also needed to spend time working at the top of their scope in larger hospitals.
The health board would still have to cover the cost of patient travel to Christchurch for those acute cases, but he expected the overall costs of travel for vascular procedures to reduce significantly.