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The University of Otago's first professor of general practice and authority on the clinical management of what was called Tapanui flu, Prof Campbell Murdoch is returning from Australia to become Tapanui's GP next month.
The West Otago town has been surviving with locum cover for much of the year.
Its resident doctor, Dr Daphne Climie, resigned suddenly at the end of April, just before she was expected to return from leave granted in January.
West Otago Health manager Michele Stainburn said the service had managed to get a locum for a couple of days a week, which was not ideal for the community.
She praised the work of the service's nursing team.
Finding locums in winter in the south had been particularly hard this year, she said.
West Otago Health Board chairman Brian Brenssell said he was excited about the appointment, saying Prof Murdoch shared the board's vision for its proposed $6 million rural integrated family health centre and aged care facility.
Prof Murdoch is expected to begin work next month, but would also carry out locum work in the meantime when he was able to, Mr Brenssell said.
Prof Murdoch was professor of general practice in the Dunedin School of Medicine from 1983 to 1992 and a GP in Winton between 1999 and 2002.
In recent years, he has been head of the school of primary, aboriginal and rural health care at the University of Western Australia, Kalgoorlie.
The term Tapanui flu was coined in the 1980s after Tapanui GP Dr Peter Snow and public health researchers Marion Poore and Charlotte Paul published the results of their research into an apparent outbreak of a chronic fatigue illness in West Otago.
The late Dr Snow credited Prof Murdoch with recognising the need for research into the phenomenon which is chronic fatigue syndrome.
In 2002, Prof Murdoch co-authored a book with Harriet Denz-Penhey on the subject, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a Patient-centred Approach.
Mr Brenssell said the service, which covers 2000 patients, continued to provide a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service although this was becoming more difficult.
The sudden departure of Dr Climie had put a tremendous strain on "our resources, staff and management".
Mrs Stainburn said the service hoped to develop new partnerships and other ways of working so that if someone left the effects were not so drastic.
It is not known when work will start on the new complex, which will require $1.5 million of community fundraising.