Happy 40th: here's to good health

An innovative concept when it opened, the Mosgiel Health Centre celebrates its 40th birthday this month.

Centre manager Kathryn Tohill said the centre was unique in the 1970s for co-locating GPs with district nurses, Plunket, public health nurses, radiology, occupational therapists and a physiotherapist.

Friends' years of practice

The joining of four Mosgiel general practices to a community health centre built by the local hospital board was a first in New Zealand.

Over time, social workers, psychiatric personnel, psychologists and the Otago Medical School had a presence.

Interest in the concept was such the Chinese Minister of Health visited in 1979.

The doors opened to patients on August 5, 1974, and the centre was officially opened by then health minister Bob Tizard on August 24.

In 1992, when health buildings were being privatised, the centre was bought by a group, including some of the existing partners.

Refurbishment followed to accommodate growing numbers of patients. Podiatry, a dietitian, laboratory and hearing services moved in, while social services moved to their own premises.

The radiology service closed with the retirement of radiographer John Adie and because of the cost of replacing the centre's ''near antique'' radiology equipment.

''We still have most of the services from the early days of the centre available to our patients, although some of the business names and people providing the services have changed over the years,'' Miss Tohill said.

The original GPs were Drs Robert McAllister, Donald McAllister, Leo Garmonsway, Alec Luke and Irwin Logan. Dr Robert McAllister, now 81, retired in 1998. From its opening until about 1990, the centre offered the sole GP practice in Mosgiel, he said.

Four of the GPs practised previously in Mosgiel, and got together because they saw little benefit in being in opposition to each other. The move allowed them to take on a fifth doctor.

''It was a great team. We emphasised the team spirit side of it,'' Dr McAllister said.

''We discussed the needs for the whole of the area.''

At the time, there were some doubts about getting public and district nurses working together, but they collaborated well.

''It cut out a lot of unnecessary doubling up of work with patients.''

The GPs were able to support one another, have regular contact and offer advice.

''To us it was a new thing to do to come together.''

For Dr McAllister, the most difficult part of his practice was carrying the burden of emergency care.

Primary healthcare was very different in the 1970s, and GPs had to juggle many demands.

• The anniversary will be marked with a celebration on Sunday afternoon at the centre with staff and former staff.

If any former staff have not been contacted, please call the centre on 489-5135.

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