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"Firsts" in Launceston

Northern Suburbs Medical Service has been established in the middle-class working suburbs of northern Launceston for well over forty years.
The practice was started by Dr. John Gunson who opened a surgery in 1958 at the top of the Mowbray Hill opposite the Mowbray Hotel. Dr. Gunson graduated in 1952 in Adelaide. He had worked for a time in Darwin, then at the Mersey General Hospital at Latrobe, and later was the Government Medical Officer at Georgetown.
Mrs. Beth Coombes was Dr. Gunson's second receptionist, who stayed with the practice until 1993 as practice manager.
Dr. Gunson's move to Mowbray was a first for Launceston. Dr. Gunson sensed a need for a doctor to eschew the then traditional doctors' strip in the main street of Launceston (Brisbane Street), and move to the outlying suburbs where people were living and working - the 'local' doctor had truly become local.
Two years later in 1960, Dr. Gunson was joined by Dr. Bertel Sundstrup in a joint practice on the present site at 278 Invermay Road, in a house owned by local pharmacist Mr Wally Rumney (see photograph of the practice house circa 1972)
In 1962, the Mowbray doctors' fee for a standard consultation was exactly One Pound, a notable amount in terms of average weekly earnings at the time.
Dr. Gunson was joined by Drs. John Birchill and Dr. Frank Madill in the mid-1960s with Dr. Sundstrup departing for hospital-based practice. By the early 1970s a thriving group practice had been established. For a short time Dr. Bob Brown worked with the practice, during his formative conservationist years in Tasmania, prior to becoming a federal government Senator.
For a number of years, the practice serviced the picturesque outlying town of Lilydale, with Dr. Gunson and Dr. Madill consulting there regularly.
The practice building for most of the 1960's and early 1970's was, as was usual for the times and even now, an old converted house.
In the early 1970's because of practice growth, the partners decided that a new building was required. In another first for the practice and for Launceston, a purpose-designed and built surgery was constructed, at the current location.
In the late 1970s, a surgery was set up in the government-built Ravenswood community health centre. We provided services at the Ravenswood site until December 1997.
In 1977, the practice adopted the RACGP Health Record system, a move followed by few practices at the time.
Dr. Gerard Gill joined in 1980, and in the following year a purpose-built surgery was located at 121 Georgetown Road Newnham to help service the growing northern suburban fringe and outlying rural areas.
Additional partners who have come and gone over this time include Drs. Brian Driver, David Poustie, Neil Filgate, Chris Luttrell and Andrew Fair.
Dr. Andrew Jackson joined in 1984, and became a partner a year later. He is currently the practice principal and sole owner of the practice.

Computers Arrive

In 1986, very early on in the personal computer revolution, we were one of the first practices in Tasmania to 'computerise' the business, with computerised accounts and appointment systems coming on-line.
We were one of the first practices to embrace efficiency of faxing of patient information, and in 1991 successfully called on the Launceston General Hospital to follow suite.
In the mid-1990's, in response to the increasing need for small business, including general practices, to be efficiently and effectively managed, we employed a full-time practice manager with tertiary business qualifications, Mr. Steve Burris. This was another practice 'first' for Tasmania, and recognised the partner's view that great clinical practice requires excellence in business management.
In 1998, the practice introduced clinical computing to the doctor's desktop. Three years later, we introduced a Wide Area Network 'thin-client' based clinical computing system, the first in Tasmania to do so. This produced a revolution in the ability of our doctors to increase the efficiency and standard of service delivery, which continues today.
In 1997 we were the first practice in Tasmania to use 'direct mail' campaigns for influenza vaccination, and later pneumococcal (anti-pneumonia) vaccine, to significantly boost the awareness and uptake of these important vaccines in our local community.
We were in the first cohort of practices in Australia to be officially accredited with AGPAL, demonstrating a strong and enduring commitment to providing the best possible clinical services to patients of the northern suburbs and beyond.
At the turn of the new millennium, the then partners Dr. Gill and Dr. Jackson recognised that the Mowbray buildings were not fully-suited to providing the best possible facilities for patients and staff to use. An intense period of planning followed. In 2003, with Dr. Andrew Jackson as sole practice principal, and over a six month period, the practice was completely renovated and upgraded, successfully integrating the rear of the old pharmacy at 276 Invermay Road into the surgery. We now provide for patients, staff, and doctors, one of the best surgery environments in Tasmania in which to visit and work.

The Importance of Nurses

NSMS has long recognised the importance of nurses and nursing to general practice, employing 'ENs' (enrolled nurses) and 'TANs' (trained auxiliary nurses) for hands-on patient duties since the mid 1980s.
In 1997 it was recognised that RNs (Registered Nurse) would be needed to help cope with the increasing demands being placed on general practice by the governments and the community. The practice assisted the upgrade of one of our EN's Mrs. Sandra Burris by facilitating her university qualifications.
In 2002 we created the new position of 'Senior Nurse - General Practice'. This role was subsequently filled by Mrs. Sandra Burris RN. We have been one of the first private general practices in Tasmania to recognise the coming need and importance of having full-time RN expertise in the practice to support the doctors and to help develop additional services for our patients.
In 2001, we were the first and remain the only Launceston practice to place a team in Rotary's Relay for Life', a continuous 24hour relay that raises money for cancer research and care. Relay for Life commenced in the United States in the 1980's and has become one of the biggest international cancer fund-raising success stories of the last thirty years.
And in Christmas Week 2004, Monday 20 December, we were the first general medical practice in Tasmania, and possibly Australia, to go online with a fully-comprehensive 'content-rich' web site - that you are currently enjoying!
In 2009 we were by notified by Medicare Australia that, for childhood immunisation performed by the practice, we had achieved an unprecedented 96.8% fully-immunised rate for children that attend us. This compared with the northern Tasmania division of general practice average fully-immunised rate at the time of 89.4%. This is a very rewarding first for both our practice and the children that attend, and a tribute to our current immunisation-certified practice nurse Vicki Jordan RN."
In 2011 our Dr. Gerard Gill was 'head-hunted" to become the first Professor of Regional & Rural General Practice at Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria. By this time, Dr. Gill had served the northern suburbs community with excellence for thirty years. He was the first home-grown GP in the north of the Tasmania to elevate to such an eminent academic position while simultaneously working 'at the coalface' in General Practice. His loss to the practice and the local medical community is significant but we wish Professor Gill all the best in his new venture interstate.
Northern Suburbs Medical Service has a proud history of 'firsts'. We will continue to aspire to provide the best services in the best environment, now and in the future.
Our thanks to everyone - doctors, nurses, practice managers, staff, and patients - who have been part of the NSMS success story over the past four and-a-half decades.
NSMS phone number

Northern Suburbs Medical
Service (NSMS) Launceston Tasmania Australia

Mowbray Surgery 1960-1973
Dr. John Gunson
The partners circa 1980's.
Beth Coombes
Mr Burris and Dr Gill
Dr. Bob Brown
Beth Coombes and staff
Dr. John Birchill
One Pound receipt
Dr. Frank Mcdill
Olden-days doctors' bag
Dr. Bert Sundstrup 1960