Three volunteer GPs to step down

Servants Health Centre in central Dunedin is preparing to farewell volunteer doctors (from left)...
Servants Health Centre in central Dunedin is preparing to farewell volunteer doctors (from left) Dr Adrian Hindes, Dr Peter Ripley and Dr Tim Stokes, who will step down from their community service roles at the end of the year. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD
Times are changing at Servants Health Centre in central Dunedin, as three of its long-serving volunteer GPs plan to step down at the end of the year.

Dr Peter Ripley, Dr Adrian Hindes and Dr Tim Stokes have volunteered their time over many years at the free healthcare clinic, a Christian charity which aims to ensure the city’s most vulnerable citizens have access to quality healthcare.

Servants Health Centre board member and volunteer GP Dr Dan Pettigrew and centre lead Rachel Slade paid tribute to the three doctors for their care and compassion over the years, and acknowledged the difference they had made in patients’ lives.

"We really value and appreciate all of the work these three GPs have done — their compassion for our patients and the vital treatment they have given," Ms Slade said.

Dr Peter Ripley, who also works as a GP in Oamaru, joined the Servants Health Centre team in 2011, spending a day each week working with patients in Dunedin.

"As GPs we want to help people, regardless of finances, so Servants Health Centre has been a great outlet for me," Dr Ripley said.

"The people who come here may find it difficult to access other health centres, and have additional needs.

"We are happy to work with them and respect them as patients."

Dr Adrian Hindes has volunteered at Servants Health Centre once a week since 2012, after a colleague at Mornington Health Centre suggested it.

Having a background in psychiatry before going into general practice, Dr Hindes has been able to use his skills to build relationships and support people in need.

In addition to people who are struggling financially or who may be experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness, Servants Health Centre receives referrals from the Dunedin Night Shelter, justice agencies and mental health service providers.

Dr Hindes said service to others was a core value of what it was to be a human being.

"I believe the work being done at Servants is of vital importance for the people of Dunedin."

The demands of his own practice Dunedin City GPs, which took over caring for 800 patients from the Community Support Medical Centre, meant he would no longer be able to volunteer at Servants.

"It has been a very good experience volunteering here — it is a nice place to come."

Dr Tim Stokes, who has volunteered at Servants Health Centre since 2017, has been a GP for more than 30 years in the United Kingdom and New Zealand and is a professor at the Otago Medical School.

He began working with high-needs patients experiencing "chaotic lives" while a GP in Leicester, and has a good understanding of the barriers to people accessing medical care.

"Volunteering at Servants has been a chance to help people who, through no fault of their own, have difficulty accessing services — it has been a very rewarding experience.

"Everyone here is committed to providing the very best care, and there is an excellent team of nurses who work very closely with patients," Dr Stokes said.

Servants Health Centre has operated at 100 Princes St for the past 13 years, with five volunteer GPs on staff and five nurses, working closely together.

Dr Pettigrew said, as the centre did not follow a commercial model, consultation lengths could be tailored to patients’ needs, meaning people could "take as much time" as they needed.

"With these three wonderful doctors stepping down at the end of the year, we are looking for GPs who can spare some of their time to help out."

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