Modern building is icing on the cake of small-town GP life in WaimateNew post

Zahra Shahtahmasebi . zshahtahmasebi@nzdoctor.co.nz
Republished with permission of New Zealand Doctor

Tuesday 18 June 2019, 09:47 AM

"I used to feel nervous in the old building every time there was an earthquake…now we’ll probably be used as a command centre in a national emergency"

When she looks at her newly built health centre, GP Sarah Creegan feels a sense of belonging to the small Canterbury town of Waimate.

“As a rural GP you can go anywhere in the country, but this little town is understated and wonderful,” Dr Creegan says.

Although Waimate Health Centre got started at its new site in December, the $2 million facility was officially opened on Friday 7 June by its owner, local businessman Gary Rooney.

A couple of hundred people, including DHB workers, community members, and Dr Creegan’s professional colleagues attended the opening ceremony and were treated to a kapa haka by pupils from Waimate Centennial School.

Dr Creegan enjoyed seeing how impressed the visitors were by the new general practice and pharmacy building.

“The patients were beaming, my university friends who had come up for the ceremony were beaming,” she says.

‘Tranquil, welcoming and running smoothly’

The practice is tranquil and welcoming, and runs smoothly: “We have really slick facilities in which to look after patients…We have more capacity now, to expand our services and develop different models of care.”

The centre has been able to re-establish links with the University of Otago to allow fifth-year medical students on placement. The first of these, Brianna Thompson, was an “exceptional” addition to the practice.

Different ways of caring

Dr Creegan hopes to start providing more care in patients’ homes, and plans to liaise with hospital colleagues in Timaru and Christchurch about this.

“It’s not just about how far away the hospitals are, but how many people travel to use them. The cumulative human time spent travelling is enormous.”

Earthquake proof

With modern wiring, good insulation and earthquake proofing, the new building is a contrast with the old 1960s one, says Dr Creegan.

“I used to feel nervous in the old building every time there was an earthquake…now we’ll probably be used as a command centre in a national emergency.”

Better acoustics in consulting rooms has improved privacy, and a spacious staff room is shared with the pharmacy team.

Easing the recruitment challenge

The old building limited the practice’s options and had nothing to offer that would attract new staff. Now, a top-quality facility raises the practice’s profile and makes it more attractive to health professionals, Dr Creegan says.

Setting up in Waimate as a solo GP after moving from Great Barrier Island in 2007, she says she has loved every minute of her new life. Once the new facility was confirmed, she hired two new GPs.

A year since demolition

The date of the opening ceremony was significant – on the same day one year ago, demolition of the old building began.

While preparing for the new facility has been a lot of work, Dr Creegan was impressed by how quickly the facility was built. Discussions with Mr Rooney began 18 months ago, and following the demolition in June the new building was finished in six months.

“It’s a pretty amazing dream for a rural general practice, normally it would involve lots of planning and fundraising.”


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