The ability to speak Zulu saw Gore Hospital chief executive Karl Metzler posted to government hospitals during the 1990s when the HIV crisis was just hitting South Africa.
Mr Metzler shared his experience in the South African and New Zealand health sectors when he spoke at the Registered Master Builders Association Southern Summit.
The summit was held at Heartland Hotel Croydon on Wednesday.
Mr Metzler, who was born in Durban, South Africa, said he trained as a clinical psychologist, gaining his doctorate in clinical psychology and worked in several forensic fields in South Africa.
“Working forensic psychiatry in South Africa is not a pretty place and on top of that it was early ’90s, so the HIV crisis was really just hitting in South Africa.”
Mr Metzler said at that point about 72% of their patients were HIV positive and the prognosis for many patients was often not good.
“It was a pretty tough environment, really.”
Mr Metzler said a friend of his who worked for a medical recruitment company told him New Zealand needed more psychologists.
“So I got a job in Invercargill. I remember looking at the world map and thinking ‘gee, that’s below Dunedin’, coming from sub-tropical Durban and then flying into Invercargill, I remember looking out the plane and there were no swimming pools.
“In Aussie, or South Africa you fly over and there’s pools everywhere, but [here] there were no pools .. ”
Mr Metzler said he used to be sent to Gore for out-patient clinics and after he married and the couple had three children he started living in Gore.
“We see about 7000 emergency department patients a year and somewhere like Queenstown is sitting on about 9500.”
Mr Metzler also shared some advice on men’s health such as general information such as having a check-up once a year, but also advice like not eating out of the original container.
“You start with the ice-cream and before you know it, 15 minutes later you’re at the bottom of the tub and you think s…, I should have got a bowl.”