Charlton Medical Centre
Charlton Medical Centre is located within the new East Wimmera Health Service precinct. The practice employs a full time nurse, administration staff and practice manager. The practice has the capacity to host one AGPT Registrar. Medical students from the University of Melbourne and the John Flynn Placement Program are also hosted by the practice.
Visiting consultants include a cardiologist and ophthalmologist. Telehealth services are utilised at the practice and there is a support network of specialist consultants and allied health services available via Bendigo Health.
RFDS Rural Women’s GP Service provides a female GP to the town every six to eight weeks.
The GPs from each of the five East Wimmera campuses are rostered to cover urgent care centres in their town, week days 8am Monday to 8am Friday. Weekend cover is shared between this GP group. Registrars have admitting rights at the hospital and generally do one in 14 weekends on call. Registrars are not required to cover week day after hours.
The major emergency referral centre is Bendigo. Charlton’s urgent care centre has telehealth and phone link capacity with Bendigo and Ballarat Emergency Departments. The urgent care centre is staffed round the clock, some of the nursing staff are accredited with RIPEN to enable not only emergency triage but also limited prescribing and suturing.
Obstetric services cover antenatal care only as there is no bed-based obstetric management capacity in Charlton.
With a population of around 1200 Charlton is predominantly an agricultural community with cropping, lamb and wool production. The town is located 100km NW of Bendigo, 250km NW Melbourne.
In 2011 Charlton suffered significant flooding with 80 per cent of the town underwater. Houses, businesses, the ambulance, police and fire stations, the hospital, the aged care facility, the maternal health centre and the primary and secondary schools were significantly damaged or destroyed. The Charlton Medical Practice and the hospital had to be totally rebuilt. The practice operated out of porta cabins on the local football oval. The town had no bed based inpatient services for four years during which time, new, state of the art facilities were built.
East Wimmera Health Service provides services to the communities in the 200km radius of Charlton, Birchip, Donald, Wycheproof and St Arnaud.
Each location is supported by a local GP who provides medical cover for the urgent care centre, low to medium complexity acute medical inpatient service and residential aged care. Allied health services include podiatry, dietitian, OT, physio and speech pathology. District nursing service and community health services are also available.
DR STEPHEN WEBB
Dr Stephen Webb has been the sole GP in Charlton for sixteen years. Dr Webb is a graduate of Edinburgh University obtaining his MBBS in 1984. On completing his GP training in the UK, Dr Webb investigated options for working in Australia. He was approached by Nambour Hospital (Queensland) who telephoned and asked “can you get on the next plane”. Dr Webb worked at Nambour Hospital, spent time in general practice in Queensland, then three years in Saudi Arabia. Wanting to return to Australia, in 1994 he commenced solo practice in Manangatang, central Victoria.
In 2002, Dr Webb moved to Charlton. He explained the appealing thing for him about working in a small rural town as a solo GP is the independence you have and importantly, getting to know and be part of, a friendly town with a strong community spirit.
“Running a practice in a small rural town is a bit of a challenge but the rewards are there in terms of knowing the people, being part of the community… and practising a wide range of medicine. In a variable, unpredictable type of practice – you never know what’s going to happen next and I like that.” said Dr Stephen Webb.
Dr Webb maintains Membership with RCGP UK, RACGP and ACRRM and is an EMST Faculty Senior Instructor with Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. He has special interests in trauma medicine and the management and surgical treatment of skin cancer and skin conditions.
“My objective with all our registrars is to have them capable and competent in minor surgical procedures. We get quite a lot of minor trauma from the farming community. If you are skilful at stitching up holes that you have made, then you get a lot better at stitching holes that have been made accidentally. They are harder to do and unless you have a really solid background in being able to effectively close elective surgical wounds you are not going to be good at closing trauma wounds, so I think it is a necessary skill.” said Dr Stephen Webb.
Dr Webb enjoys having registrars at the practice and recognises he learns from their “up-to-date knowledge” as much as they learn from his experience. He explained having registrars at the practice is more than just a teaching commitment, but provides multiple benefits to the practice and to the community as a whole.
The practice is accredited with the RACGP and ACRRM training programs.
The practice sees a wide variety of presentations with patients of varying ages and disease processes. Dr Webb explained even though the practice is rurally located, it is well supported. With VMO admitting rights, registrars have the opportunity to manage their own inpatients. A two bed acute ward is utilised for inpatient care including step down care on discharge from hospital following major procedures and palliative care treatment.
“Registrars are involved with In patient, aged care, acute care, urgent care presentations in a supported environment where the bail out option – Bendigo, is one hour by road or by helicopter in 20 minutes. We are regarded as rural but have the all the support services available when needed.” said Dr Stephen Webb.
Practice Manger, Jeanne Webb explained the practice and the location have a lot to offer a potential trainee.
“We have a new clinic and hospital with state of the art equipment and facilities. Rent free accommodation is available for registrars in the form of a four bedroom, newly renovated house. There is a broad range of exposure to all aspects of general practice and limited after hours.” said Jeanne Webb.
DR TASHA PATEL
GPT1 Dr Sasha Patel has been at the Charlton Practice for five months and explained having a close teaching relationship with her supervisor, Dr Webb has been really valuable.
“All new registrars are nervous starting out, but it is really nice to have a very supportive supervisor. There is never an issue about getting help. The orientation was really extensive…. I spent a couple of days with him, then he spent a couple of days in my room while I became more familiar with the practice – it was a really nice way to start. That support has continued.” said Dr Tasha Patel.
Dr Patel described Charlton as a community that is really friendly and welcoming. The patients are accustomed to seeing registrars, they recognise the clinic is a teaching practice and “they know what to expect”.
For Dr Patel, moving to a small rural community from Melbourne has taken some adjustment. Things like 24/7 shopping and banking don’t exist, but on the plus side, she has found a community that has welcomed her and encouraged her to be involved in whatever is going on.
In terms of clinical presentations, Dr Patel sees a lot of women and children as well as an older population with multiple medical issues. She has had the opportunity develop her skills in minor surgery for skin lesions and skin conditions and explained further training is available in this field.
Dr Patel explained a special aspect of being at Charlton is that you get to be “in” the community. She enjoys contributing to the delivery of health care the service provides.
“I love that we get to be in the community – we get to be, hopefully a useful and helpful person within the community. In a rural setting, you do get to be more of a point of call for a range of things, including at the urgent call centre, the nursing home, home visits….. it really feels you are “inside the community”. They are not coming into see you then going back to their life, you are here and you are part of that life. I really like that.” said Dr Tasha Patel.
DR STEPHEN WEBB
MB ChB Edinburgh UK 1984
DR TASHA PATEL
MBBS University of Newcastle 2015
2016 – 2017 SW Health Warrnambool & Portland
2018 GPT1 Charlton