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Dozens of Waikato people to receive free surgery thanks to Braemar Charitable Trust

The charitable trust that owns Braemar Hospital is providing free surgeries in November under its long-running Community Surgery Programme.

 Dozens of adults and children needing minor surgeries will have procedures across one of two Saturdays - 9 and 23 November. For the first time, Braemar Hospital will open theatres on Saturdays specifically for these free community surgeries.

 Hamilton’s Braemar Hospital is 100% owned by the Charitable Trust which undertakes a range of charitable activities, including free community surgeries, to help improve health in the Waikato region.

Under the Community Surgery Programme, free surgeries already take place at Braemar Hospital and out in the community on a regular basis as part of existing operating lists, but this is the first time surgical theatres will open on Saturdays for this purpose. Day-stay and ward space will also be available in the hospital across the two weekends in November for recovering patients. Braemar Hospital, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2026, is one of the largest private hospitals in New Zealand.

 Braemar Charitable Trust Manager Paula Baker says the two weekend full days of free surgeries is a massive logistical undertaking, involving staff and volunteers. Many surgeons and anaesthetists who are credentialed to work at Braemar Hospital donate their time, free. Braemar Hospital provides consumable items at cost, and the Trust covers other costs such as surgical items, consumables, drugs and nursing staffing.

 Ms Baker says Hamilton’s Glenice and John Gallagher Foundation has already provided a grant to help with these types of costs for the two community surgery days. “We are very grateful for their foresight in understanding how their financial contribution will enable people to resume their lives after these procedures.”

 The Trust is working with Waikato Hospital, PHOs and a variety of front-line community health service providers to receive referrals for the community surgeries. It’s expected some of the recipients will have been on public surgery waiting lists for some time or may have been previously declined; others will have unmet or unseen need due to barriers in accessing a GP for a referral.

 The Braemar Charitable Trust Community Surgery Programme has been in place for years, covering specialties such as paediatric dental, plastic, oral and general surgeries. It is aimed at helping people who have been declined or are facing considerable wait times for surgery in the public system, and who do not have health insurance, ACC nor the financial means to pay for private treatment.

 Surgeons and anaesthetists usually provide their free procedures by either adding patients to an existing private list they are already performing at Braemar Hospital, or they provide a dedicated half-day community surgery list, and occasionally perform the surgeries at community sites. This is the first time in the Trust’s history it will dedicate Saturdays to community surgeries and that the hospital will open its theatres just for these surgeries. Four theatres are expected to be open on the two Saturdays, two for paediatric procedures and two for procedures for adults.

 The procedures for the November Community Surgery days are being finalised, and may include paediatric dental; adult oral surgery; minor plastics, day-stay minor orthopaedic surgeries, general surgery procedures such as PR bleeding/Haemorrhoid banding and colonoscopies; and children’s ENT procedures such as grommets, tonsils and adenoids.

 It is thought up to 50 people will have procedures on the surgery days, adding to the 71 free community surgeries already performed in the financial year to the end of March 2024. During the November Community Surgery Days, many of the more than 200 surgeons or anaesthetists who are credentialed to work at Braemar Hospital will donate their time. The majority of these specialists also work in the public system but are donating their own personal time for the free surgeries at Braemar.

Ms Baker says specialists often apply to be credentialed to work at Braemar specifically so they can support the Trust in its charitable work. “Braemar Hospital has the broadest range of surgical specialties and of course the community surgeries we can perform won’t align with all the specialties. Our specialists are great at either donating their time for those surgeries we can provide and they also help in other ways including through financial contributions.”

 She says the Hospital’s contribution to the surgery days is invaluable. “This is a big undertaking and we are very grateful for the support of the Hospital – we will have staff working over the weekends who would normally have time off, and that’s everyone from nurses and anaesthetic technicians to those who sterilise equipment, organise the cleaning and catering, and admin and reception staff. We are very lucky to have such strong supporters in Hospital management and staff.”

 Meanwhile, Braemar Charitable Trust is also working with the ENT department at Waikato Hospital to provide free grommets, tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies surgeries. Since April 2023, the Braemar Community Surgery Programme has provided free surgeries for 41 Waikato children, reducing the average waiting time on the public list from 12 months to five months for other children. Up to 10 more children will be seen before the end of May via the collaboration.

 Ms Baker says the Trust has a wide range of activities it funds and runs, all with the ultimate aim of helping boost health outcomes in the Waikato region. It provides free surgeries, scholarships, health training and pays for medical research in the region among other things.

 “People don’t know a lot about us but we are the sole owner of Braemar Hospital and we’ve been working steadily in the background for years enabling access vital to improving health outcomes,” she says. “We encourage everyone to think about how they can help us help the region – this could be through donations to our Trust, suppliers gifting items, or people giving time to help us.”