Mobile Surgical Unit 

The "Bus"bus button new

How it operates

The Mobile Surgical Unit travels on a five-week loop of the country, stopping off for the day at 24 regular sites. The surgery the patients receive at each site is booked well in advance with the patients’ GPs, specialists, and Mobile Health staff liaising to ensure efficiency of service. Running on an ongoing circuit of the country, MHS employs two aptly-named “steerologists” who between the two of them maintain the Bus’ demanding punctuality and, upon arrival at each location, effectively prop up an entire operating theatre with their own hands.

Handling a 20m long, 42 tonne truck day after day without incident is a feat in its own right, yet as the steerologists will attest to their role involves much more than mere driving. Upon arriving at each site, the driver has task of parking the Bus with enough precision to maintain ease-of-access to the Bus itself, to not obscure traffic or accessways to surrounding buildings, and to be within reach of the cables required to provide crucial power to the Bus to power it during surgery.

Once parked up accurately, the Bus deploys its self-levelling hydraulic ram stabilisers and at the touch of a button the sides of the trailer unit expand outwards, doubling its width. While power is sourced from a nearby building (usually the local hospital or medical centre), the steerologists are conscious of the dire consequences a power outage mid-surgery could have. They thereby ensure that the power takeoff generator is set to fire up should power be lost, with the onboard UPS providing energy until the truck’s engine starts and the PTO generator kicks into action.

With the Bus prepped for use, the surgical team board to prepare for the day’s first patient. Much like the patients themselves, the surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses have their dates booked well in advance to ensure their availability for the day. As the medical staff are usually from out of town (often practicing at a main city hospital), transport to and from the Bus location is also arranged in advance, as is accommodation if required.



The sole purpose of the Bus is to provide surgery at locations lacking permanent surgical facilities. In doing so, individuals requiring an operation are able to have a surgery date booked for them without the burden of having to arrange transport to, and possibly accommodation in, larger centres.

As most people express some degree of anxiety leading up to an operation, it is important that the procedure is made as stress-free and comfortable as possible for them. Having the Bus visit them in their own town, close to their home, friends and family, goes a long way towards this. The patient can get a good night’s sleep, wander down to the Bus site in the morning and make their way back home in time for the 6 o’clock news.


Technical Information

  • Truck (prime mover) model: 2001 Freighliner Argosy 110” Hi Top sleeper cab
  • Truck engine: Cummins Signature Series 500 hp
  • Truck gearbox: Roadranger 18-speed
  • Generator (PTO): 60 KVA
  • Trailer unit: Custom built by Mills Tui (Rotorua)
  • Trailer unladen value: $5,200,000 NZD
  • Trailer width: 2.5 m (on road); 5 m (expanded)
  • Bus total length: 20 m
  • Bus total weight: 42 tonne
  • Steering assistance: 30° rear tri-axle; exterior camera system (five units)

Use your mouse to hover over different parts of the bus below

admin cab waiting entry scrub theatre clean dirty recovery exit