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Mike Tombleson retires from Lake Surgery


After more than 28 years, GP Mike Tombleson has retired from Lake Surgery.

Mike qualified in Wales in 1977. After various hospital jobs, Mike briefly came to New Zealand in 1982 as a GP locum and paediatric registrar before returning to the UK. But drawn to the land of the long white cloud, Mike and his wife soon emigrated in 1986, initally to Taranaki. They moved to Taupō in 1990 where Mike purchased Lake Surgery and it steadily became a thriving two-person practice. In 2009 Pinnacle bought a share in the practice from an outgoing partner and became part-owner. Then Primary Health Care Ltd (PHCL) took over full ownership 18 months ago.

"I've loved working at Lake Surgery," says Mike. "We have had great staff over the years and it's always had an intimate family-type atmosphere for staff and patients alike. I love the way our staff have always gone the extra mile for our patients. I will very much miss our great team and of course the patients who I have known for so many years, some for as long as I have been there."

Life long learner

A self proclaimed 'jack-of-all-trades', Mike feels his early experience in general practice, general medicine, anesthetics, alcohol and drug, paediatrics, obstetrics and more became invaluable for his work in practice. He's also been Taupō GP liasion for Pinnacle for close to 10 years.

Mike has always been involved in education and teaching, which he greatly enjoys. As a child he wanted to be either a teacher or a doctor - so he found a natural allignment.

Mike admits some of his hospital training - especially anaesthetics and general medicaine - has made him somewhat obessional about detail "which can be both a gift or a curse in general practice, depending on the situation at the time!" he says.

Mike has run the monthly GP continuing medical education (CME) programme in Taupō for the last 20 years, allowing him to maintain close links with Taupō GP colleagues and hospital specialists. "It has also been a painless way of keeping myself up-to-date," he notes. Lake Surgery is also a teaching practice, "mostly with students and trainee interns, but sometimes registrars" and this is a role Mike greatly enjoyed.

Evolving general practice

When asked for his observations on general practice over his career, Mike comments it has changed a lot.

"From frequent oncall at the beginning, we have steadily evolved an after-hours roster which remains effective for patients and much less onerous for the GPs. The advent of the mobile phone in the 90s also made a massive difference. There was no capitation when I started in general practice - that's made a big improvement in allowing us to provide more comprehensive health care for the whole community."

"There are now more demands on practices - the population is ageing, consultation rates going up and more chronic care is required. When I first started at Lake Surgery, New Zealand general practice had a definite reluctance to grasp change. Now GPs, especially locally, are much more flexible and open minded about grasping new ideas for moving forward, which is essential to meeting the new challenges ahead. Working for Pinnacle, I have seen they are instrumental in creating and facilitating some of this progress."

"It's been really satisfying to be part of a medical community which is moving forward and provides really good care for its population," says Mike. "Taupō-Turangi is unique in the fact the local practices work very co-orperatively. Nearly 20 years ago we all decided to go very low cost access (VLCA). This was significant for the community in allowing us to provide accessible care without competitive issues. We have all been able to work together on a number of projects over the years and more recently have all adopted the Health Care Home model simultaneously."

Best of both worlds

Mike is continuing in his role as Pinnacle GP liason and has plans to return intermittently to clinical practice as a locum when needed. He is about to become a grandfather for the first time and plans to spend time travelling overseas over the next few years.

He expects to keep pretty busy outside of work with his interests including tennis and golf, walking the dog, staying fit, and moving onto the next stage of landscaping his 1.5 acre gardens.

"Though even with all this extra time to practice, I doubt my golf handicap will ever come down!" he laughs.

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