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New head of medicine at Waikato Hospital
They did things differently at Taumarunui Hospital back in the 1990s. Just ask Paul Reeve, the newly appointed head of professional division of medicine at Waikato Hospital.
Dr Reeve was working as a specialist physician at the Vila Central Hospital in Vanuatu in 1993 when he wrote to Taumarunui Hospital seeking some information about the hospital.
By return mail, he got an application form and a short time later a telephone call from the then hospital boss Dr Paul Malpass saying he had the job as sole specialist physician.
“I hadn’t even applied for a job. I just wanted information,” said England born and Hong Kong raised Dr Reeve.
The family, wife Elizabeth and two children Clare and John came to New Zealand to check out Taumarunui for themselves.
“What we saw we liked. It had a New World (supermarket) and fresh mussels.”
A house next to Taumarunui Hospital came with the job and so did the opportunity to lease land to keep their horses.
Dr Reeve was able to do his community calls on horseback. Other times he would be out riding, get bleeped to go to the hospital, ride up to the ward room door, hand the reins over to someone and attend to the patient.
“I was an isolated physician; it was either a retirement job or a job for a young physician.”
Taumarunui Hospital was then a single 18-bedded medical ward with a two-bedded high dependency unit and around 600 admissions a year.
Later that year Dr Reeve became clinical director for Taumarunui, Te Kuiti and Tokoroa hospitals – a job he held for 12 years.
In 1998, the family moved to Hamilton where Dr Reeve took up a position in general medicine at Waikato Hospital.
Dr Reeve enjoys his role with training and developing young doctors.
“My focus has been on the training and in instilling professionalism. We have now established a respected training programme that attracts registrars to Waikato because of very good pass rates in both the written and clinical Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physician (FRACP) exams.”
The appointment as head of professional division of medicine reporting to chief medical advisor Dr Tom Watson was a logical one given his experience. He will be involved in credentialing all new medical consultants on appointment and every three years. He, with Dr Watson, is accountable for clinical governance.
Dr Reeve will also continue as clinical director of general medicine and cut back on his hours as director of physician training.
“We’ve had a real team effort across medicine to improve the training programme and registrar experience here at Waikato.”
That work resulted in excellent exam results.
“We have the ability to recruit and retain. Places like Auckland are short of registrars and locums. We’ve been full and continue to have a full complement because we’ve been very innovative about it.”
Dr Reeve has no qualms about letting doctors go overseas; he keeps the door open for their return.
“I’ve gone overseas (myself) and I really would encourage people to do that before they take up a consultant appointment. It broadens people’s approach. Whether they do it at the end of their advanced training before they take up a fellowship or in the middle; it doesn’t matter. If you’ve got terms, conditions, and an environment that’s attractive, you can bring people back. It’s about offering people a job when they come back so they know they have that security.”
The lure of good research links with Waikato University, Wintec and Ruakura appeals as well. Auckland University’s Waikato Clinical School on the Waikato Hospital campus was very much a teaching centre rather than a research centre.
“We don’t have enough academic appointments in my view.”
What about the future for hospitals like Taumarunui now?
“I think we should be endeavouring to provide services locally if at all possible but the most important proviso is that the quality of care should not be compromised. I mean people from Taumarunui come up to Hamilton to buy fridges so coming to Hamilton for specialist medical care is hardly a stretch.”
The sort of operations Taumarunui Hospital completed years ago no longer get done in the public service. Operations like varicose veins and hernias etc.
“Day care surgery can be done there but it costs the DHB a lot of money to send staff down.
“Taumarunui’s role now is providing primary care out of hours. There needs to be emergency care, the ability to save lives and transfer or manage to an appropriate level on site at Taumarunui.”
Dr Reeve readily admits his career to date has been less than orthodox.
“When I qualified (as a doctor) in the UK, it was considered a risk to do anything different but I have always thought a doctor with initiative would be employable.”