Ontario Medical Clinic
Ontario Medical Clinic is a modern family oriented practice with a strong commitment to providing the highest quality primary health care to people of all ages in Mildura and the surrounding areas. Located in Ontario Avenue, the practice is in close proximity to the Mildura Base Hospital and the Mildura Private hospital where two members of the practice retain visiting rights.
Ontario Medical Clinic is the working home of twelve GPs including two GPT 1 Registrars. Most are Fellows of the RACGP or ACRRM and have, between them, over 200 years of medical knowledge and experience! Drs Philip Webster, Paul Eade, Mark Marrows, Warwick Wishart, Brad Murray and Aqeel Chalabi are Principals of the Practice.
Doctors at Ontario have a wide range of interest and expertise that includes emergency medicine, sports medicine, antenatal care, paediatrics, palliative care, Indigenous health and family medicine. Ontario Medical Clinic is registered with ‘Closing the Gap’ and provides health assessments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
The clinic has a professional team of highly qualified nursing, reception and administrative staff; an on-site pathology service with Australian Clinical Laboratories; a regular visiting specialist orthopaedic surgeon, and is conveniently situated in a medical hub that contains a large number of other medical specialty services.
Originally a vineyard, the land was purchased by the Private Hospital and sold for development as medical rooms. The purpose built clinic, completed in 1996 contains a centrally located, fully equipped surgery for minor theatre procedures, consulting rooms, nurse’s office, meeting room and administration areas. Reflecting the importance of ease of access to services and total family care, there is wheelchair entry, a play area for children and change facilities for babies.
The clinic radiates a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and, in keeping with its strong community focus, raises community awareness about common diseases through publicising activities and fund raising events such as the “biggest morning tea” and MS research.
Ontario Medical Clinic is AGPAL accredited to safety and quality standards of the RACGP. Recognising the need to sustain General Practice medicine into the future, Ontario is a fully accredited GP training practice with MCCC and has hosted registrars and medical students over many years. In recognition of their contributions to health care, former practice manager Brenda Nemtsas, nurse Carmel Hare, and Dr Philip Webster received RWAV Victorian Rural Health Awards for outstanding and long service to the community.
SUSTAINING THE GP WORKFORCE
GP registrars are an important investment in the health of the community as are medical students and GP registrars. Each year Ontario Medical Clinic hosts at least one medical student for an 18 week rotation. For one day per week, fourth year students take patient histories and develop management plans which are discussed with and signed off by the treating GP.
Ontario doctors pass on their considerable experience to registrars and medical students, investing in the notion that the experience they gain may spur them on to consider a long career rural medical practice on completion of their studies.
Doctors at Ontario consider it a natural progression for former registrars to take on the role of MCCC supervisors and mentors. Dr Eade commented that teaching registrars is not a one way street.
“There is great value for supervisors and for the Practice as a whole to both impart knowledge to registrars and also to learn from them.” said Dr Eade.
This sentiment was echoed by Dr Brad Murray.
“The registrars keep you up to date. They tell you what they have done in the hospital and ask why you do things a certain way. It keeps you on your toes. I enjoy the supervision, not just as mentors to them, but they keep you switched on.” said Dr Murray.
DR PHILIP WEBSTER
Dr Philip Webster MBBS, FRACGP, FACRRM, Dip.Obs. RACOG, Grad. Cert. CME, GAICD and a Principal of the practice spoke about his time as a GP and his work advocating for primary health services in rural communities.
Philip has a rural background. He grew up in Red Cliffs, studied medicine in Melbourne and then returned to Mildura in 1977 where he completed his internship. After three years of hospital practice, honing his skills in anaesthetics, obstetrics and emergency medicine he embarked on general practice in 1980.
Dr Webster is a prominent figure in the Mildura community. Over the years he has held positions on the board of the Mildura Senior Secondary College; was a founding member of the Emmaus House advisory committee for homeless men in Mildura and is the current chair of Zoe Support Australia, an organisation that supports young pregnant women and young mothers. He is a graduate of the Australian College of Company Directors.
One of Dr Webster’s passions is to further the quality and sustainability of rural medicine and to this end he has always been a strong advocate for primary health care. He is a board member of the Victorian Rural Workforce Agency (RWAV) since 2005 including seven years as chairperson to 2014. For 16 years he served on the Boards of the Mallee Division of General Practice – later the Lower Murray Medicare Local and is currently the medical advisor for the North West region with Murray Primary Health Network. In 2013 He was awarded the RWAV Length of Service Award in recognition of over 35 years service to rural general practice.
For more than 15 years Dr Webster has held supervisory roles for International Medical Graduates and GP registrars as well as having a long history tutoring undergraduate medical students at the Monash Rural Clinical School in Mildura. Dr Webster believes that general practice provides the best care that a community needs.
“My attitude is to invest in terms of the patients and good quality care, and also invest in training registrars and having students here to give them exposure to practise that is focussed on quality primary care.
“Primary care begins in general practice and if we can keep people out of secondary care then we are doing a good job.” said Dr Webster
DR PAUL EADE
Dr Paul Eade MBBS, FRACGP. Dr Eade is a Principal of Ontario Medical Clinic. He completed his MBBS at London University in 1986 worked for many years in the National Health Service in England before coming to Australia where he gained his Fellowship of the RACGP in 2003. In addition to all aspects of family medicine and community care, he has a special interest in diabetes and asthma.
Settling in Mildura in 2001, Paul commented on the friendliness of the community and the breadth of facilities and leisure activities that the city offers.
Dr Eade also reflected on the importance and value of working with extremely experienced and professional colleagues because it adds an extra dimension to high quality clinical practice at Ontario. In addition the registrars are very ‘switched on’ and bring new ideas and perspectives to family medicine from which supervisors and other doctors at the practice can learn and benefit.
DR BRAD MURRAY
Dr Brad Murray MBBS, FRACGP, MPH&TM and his wife Dr Emma Murray MBBS, FRACGP, both work at Ontario Medical Clinic. In addition to his primary medical degree and Fellowship of the RACGP, Brad has Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and a special interest in dermatology and skin cancer treatments. Brad is involved is involved as teacher and mentor to GP registrars.
Brad grew up in Mildura, and then spent ten years in Melbourne, completing his medical degree and undertaking hospital residency. In 2006 Brad and Emma returned to Mildura. Emma began her GP registrar training at Ontario and Brad completed a six-month term at Mildura hospital before also commencing his GP registrar training.
We were only going to come back for a couple of years until we were qualified but everything was great and there was no reason to move, so we stayed. You make so many connections with your patients, family and friends. There’s no way we’d leave now. Eleven years later they are still in Mildura enjoying the highlights of rural life and rural general practice.
THE REGISTRAR EXPERIENCE
Dr Eva Curley MD. Melbourne University and Dr Joelene Lau MBBS, University of Tasmania are GPT1 registrars who joined the Practice in 2017.
Dr Curley grew up in Queensland on a small rural property and went on to study in Brisbane before gaining her Bachelor of Medicine at Melbourne University. Initially interested in training in Ballarat, she settled on Mildura for her general practice registrar training because she… wanted to be in a regional centre in an established practice with a number of GPs … because it provides more opportunities for support from experienced GPs.
Dr Lau on the other hand, came from a busy city in Malaysia to the rather quieter port city of Burnie, Tasmania where she attended University and completed a total of three years in hospital practice including her internship year. Dr Lau chose Mildura for her GP registrar training because she… was looking for a practice that could be supportive, a slightly larger one with several doctors whom you could approach and give you different opinions …
Mildura and the Base Hospital was also a ‘good fit’ for her partner who is also a medical practitioner.
SUPPORT FOR REGISTRARS
There are many places in Victoria that are far from a capital city and registrars often take a “leap of faith” when undertaking GP training in rural locations. While clinical support is of vital importance to GP registrars, non-clinical support is also a major ingredient in ensuring a positive experience for registrars.
In this regard Kellyann Wilton, Ontario’s Practice Manager, plays a significant role. She provides registrars with information, not only about the Practice and what to expect, but also about the town, where to live, types of accommodation and available services. She and the other practice staff are on hand to answer a myriad of questions from the newcomers about settling in to the region. Both Eva and Jolene appreciated the initial support, the smooth functioning of the Practice and the on-going informal interaction with other members of the Practice over lunch.
In summing up they commented: There are systems in place for everything here. Everything runs smoothly.. We are very happy here.
ATTRACTION OF GENERAL PRACTICE
All doctors agreed that the highlights of general practice are the holistic nature of cradle to grave care, lack of fragmentation of treatment and the personal and trusting nature of the relationship between doctor and patient as the following comment reveals.
“I think the thing that attracts me about general practice is the capacity to engage with the patient more holistically … to look at their psycho-social needs, to try to integrate care and enable them to be the manager of their care.z’ said Dr Philip Webster
Similarly registrars, Drs Eva Curley and Joelene Lau talked about the attraction to general practice being the breadth of experience across different types of medicine and the continuity of care in dealing with a range of different people across different age groups and backgrounds.
Both registrars agreed that compared to other specialties, you have the satisfaction of seeing your patients get better whereas in hospital you see only part of their illness. You send them out the door and don’t really know what happens after that. In general practice, … you get to know them and work with them through multiple issues.
For Dr Brad Murray, the highlight of general practice is the interface between community and medical practice.
“You genuinely know your patients and your community. You see them at sporting events and you see them socially. Some people might see that as a downside but I see it as a real plus. You know what’s happening in their lives. They feel that they know their doctor, so that to me is the highlight.” said Dr Murray.
With doctors, medical educators and GP supervisors with the experience and dedication of those at Ontario Medical Clinic, the health of the community and the development of the next generation of general practitioners is in good hands.