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The Australian specialist appointed to the expert panel to advise the Ministry of Health on neurosurgery services in the South has previously stated the minimum population requirement for a neurosurgery unit is 300,000 to 350,000.
Glenn McCulloch says this in a 2005 report on behalf of the Neurosurgical Society of Australasia about provision of neurosurgical services in Australia, training of neurosurgeons and workforce issues.
While the society is also involved in New Zealand training, the paper related only to Australia.
In a section on rural services, the paper said a single-person unit was not viable because of exhaustion, lack of colleague support and professional isolation.
"For these reasons, we are of the view that the minimum population requirements is in the order of 300,000-350,000 with two neurosurgeons."
The Southern District Health Board population is listed on its website as serving a population of more than 286,000.
In the report, Mr McCulloch said there were a small number of viable and quality units outside the main population centres - Townsville, Penrith, Wollongong, Newcastle and the Gold Coast.
The report did not indicate the population outside the immediate city which would be served.
Of those centres, Penrith has a population several thousand smaller than Dunedin city's 120,000 and Townsville has a population of about 175,000.
Mr McCulloch's report also said in emergencies remote Australian areas could benefit from transmission of images and the advice of a neurosurgeon in another city and that such services needed to be expanded.