Hokianga Health Enterprise Trust

HISTORY > DR G M SMITH

The legendary Dr George McCall Smith (GM) set up the unique model of health care that has evolved into the Hokianga Health service of today.

GM came to Hokianga with his wife from Scotland as a young man in 1914 and set up a private practice, based at the Hokianga Hospital in Rawene. He found that the conditions were very harsh and he made his rounds by boat and horseback. Many people were unable to afford to pay him for his services and offered recompense with food and other goods. He believed in common-sense treatment and earned a reputation for a caring and efficient medical service.

He could see however that to improve the health of Hokianga people, something else was needed, and when the first Labour Government came to power in 1935, he and others such as Rae Cox successfully pursuaded Government of the radical idea for the establishment of Hokianga as a Special Medical Area (SMA). It was not until after the war, in 1947, that the Hokianga SMA was established.

The Hokianga SMA was centred on the Hokianga Hospital at Rawene, which was staffed by salaried GPs and community nurses living and working as practitioners in the remote communities of Hokianga.

Pharmaceuticals were also able to be provided under this system at no cost to the patient. The Hokianga SMA has proved over the past sixty years to be an efficient and effective model for the provision of health services.

GM was also famous for a range of medical innovations in his day including 'The Painless Birth'.

After the Hokianga community was successful in its political campaign to first defend the benefits of the SMA and then later to take over the ownership and governance of the the Hokianga Health services in 1993, the model of healthcare that had been established by GM flourished under community control. The legacy left behind by GM in this new context, became the forerunner of the modern Primary Health Organisation, and GM's community nurse became the forerunner of the modern concept of the Nurse Practitioner.

There is a memorial for GM at Hokianga Hospital in Rawene.

Hokianga Health Enterprise Trust, Private Bag, Kaikohe, Northland, New Zealand Tel: 09 405 7709 Fax: 09 405 7329
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