A respected doctor has reminisced about his time serving the community in Cookstown as he embarks upon his retirement after 39 years.
Doctor John McBride described how he had always wanted to pursue the career.
“My father was in the printing business and my mother was a music teacher, but I had three older cousins who became doctors.
“I qualified in medicine in 1976 and worked in the Mater Infirmorum Hospital, later becoming a junior tutor in medicine. My first night on duty was the first night of the ‘Shankill Butchers’ murders. We covered A&E and witnessed many horrific sights as a result of The Troubles. This intense situation taught everyone involved how to calmly assess an emergency, and prioritise injury and illness.
Dr McBride went on to work in the RVH and later children’s medicine, especially special care nursery, before leaving to become a GP trainee in Belfast.
“This was during the hunger strikes of the early 1980s. House calls at night were often to so called “no go” areas,” he continued. “My wife’s twin sister lived in Cookstown and during a visit I met Dr John O’Kane who offered me a partnership. Both he and I worked with the late Dr Jack Glasgow in the current Community Health Centre. After Dr Glasgow retired, we were joined by Dr Paul Irwin. In 1990 we decided to build our own purpose-built premises - to become known as The Oaks Family Practice - which were completed in early 1991. Two of the current staff, Mrs Moyra Lee and Mrs Trudy Anderson are still there from my first day in Cookstown.
“Our working day was long ... our wives were fully involved as “out of hours” receptionists! During the 1990s computerisation evolved. Firstly the doctors has to summarise all the notes of our 6,500 patients. This was a mammoth task taking over one year to complete.
“Finally in the early 2000s, Dalriada Doctor on Call came to the area. This service enabled doctors to choose how much out of hours to work. This has been the most dramatic change to a GP’s life . More recently GP targets and appraisals were introduced. The former has had a definite impact on patient health.
“The Oaks is a growing practice which endeavours to be innovative yet retaining traditional GP values. I am delighted we have brought in three new and highly qualified doctors, Doctors Brown, Naughton and Murray. They are ably supported by practice manager, Mrs Lorraine Devlin and great reception and nursing staff.
“General Practice is currently undergoing further change with the extension of surgery hours... this will necessitate fewer staff during normal business hours. The outcome has been to discourage new GP recruitment. Fewer young doctors are considering GP, and half of all GPs are over 50years old. General Practice is in crisis in many parts of the UK and manpower shortages are inevitable.
“I would like to thank all my patients for their good wishes, cards and gifts. I enjoy travelling, walking and golf. I do not think I will have trouble filling my days, though I will miss the interaction with my patients and colleagues.”