In a time when rural-based practising doctors are on the decline, St George is proving that a welcoming community and a history of strong and effective working relationships makes a difference.
Dr Adam Coltzau made the move to St George almost 10 years ago and has not looked back. As a young student studying medicine, Adam set out to do prac work in St George, armed with a road map, some well wishes from his parents and a sense of adventure. He had not even heard of St George, however from the moment he arrived in the town, the lure of this friendly, welcoming western community worked its charm on him. Adam has made St George his home, together with wife Katrina and two sons, Jack (7) and Harry (4). The family has built its home on the banks of the Balonne River and does not look like leaving any time soon.
“My father was an ambulance officer and the table talk was often about medical topics,” recalls Adam. “I loved it if Dad would tell us about the latest roadside crash – I was fascinated by it all, and attended my ‘first’ first-aid class when I was 10 years old. By 14, I was holding a Junior St John’s First Aid Certificate.”
“Dad had a strong philosophy of helping others in the community and he believed that it was important to do something worthwhile in life – I wanted to follow his footsteps in that regard,” says Adam. Whilst rural and remote communities are struggling with a shortage of doctors, St George is lucky enough to boast seven full-time doctors. A strong history of effective working relationships has fostered a collegiate atmosphere and new ways of doing things are putting this tiny town on the map. Longtime St George doctor, Pam Turnock, and the Medical Superintendent, Cameron Bardsley, were instrumental in starting a unique model where both hospital-based and medical centre-based general practitioners provide an integrated model of care. “The model has terrific community advantage in that patients can be looked after in a hospital environment and then seen by the same doctor in private practice.”
In recent years, the Rural Generalist Training Scheme and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine has helped to raise the profile of rural medicine and encouraged doctors to consider this career path. The presence of the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland (RDAQ), of which Adam is president, also plays an important part in supporting rural doctors and their families, and the communities in which they live and work.
Adam cites the friendly and welcoming nature of the community as a factor in attracting and retaining staff. He believes the diversity and interesting caseload offers appeal in rural medicine. “Here in St George I am able to practice in a range of fields … a ’doc of all trades’ explains it well,” he smiles.
The community can rest easy knowing that St George really is in good hands.
Words by Kerryn Suttor | Images by Dana Gludze