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Locums have been providing neurosurgery cover at Dunedin Hospital as the Otago District Health Board continues to wait for a new neurosurgeon to clear registration and immigration processes.
United Kingdom-trained neurosurgeon Irfan Malik had originally been expected to start last September, but vocational registration and immigration processes have taken longer than expected.
To gain vocational registration, all overseas doctors coming to work in New Zealand must apply to the Medical Council of New Zealand.
If approved, they are given provisional registration for up to two years and must work under supervision for at least 12 months.
Chief medical officer Richard Bunton said the process seemed to be taking a long time, but as far as he was aware everything was in order.
When the board's previous only neurosurgeon left in January it obtained the services of a United Kingdom-based locum neurosurgeon to provide cover for a year.
However, that locum had already made a commitment to the British Army - to spend three months in Afghanistan - and when he left in April, another locum took his place, until August.
Canterbury neurosurgeons have continued to provide acute cover every second weekend and patients who require urgent treatment are transferred to Christchurch Hospital.
The neurosurgery service deals with about 350 patients a year, including from waiting lists and those needing urgent attention because of trauma or illness.