Community Heart Emergency Defibrillators are located at Fay’s Takeaway & the Woodenbong Hotel.
Community Care, Aged Care & Emergency Care situated out of the Urbenville Hospital about 20 minutes drive from Woodenbong. Local doctor clinics in Urbenville covering Urbenville and Woodenbong district.
‘High Country Medical Practice’
Dr. Carolyn May
New Hours from 4th November 2019
Tues 8.45am-1pm & 2-5pm
Every 2nd Tues 8.45-10.20 2.40-5.40
Thur 8.45am-1pm & 2-5pm
Fri 8.45am-1pm & 2-5pm
1-3 Crown Street
(corner Beaury St)
Urbenville: Phone 02 66341275
Patient Parking off Crown St.
Right Foot Podiatry and Footware.
Phone: 1300 880942 for appointments
Visit: Phone for details and appointment.
Visit: Phone for details and appointment.
Varying times after referral from Doctor.
Organise appointment with surgery.
Home Assistance and regional transport services.
Urbenville Multi-Purpose Services
Hospital: Phone 02 66341600
Aboriginal Medical Service
WELCOME TO NEW WOODENBONG-URBENVILLE DOCTOR’S. 2008.
We extend a warm welcome to husband and wife team, Doctor Carolyn May and Doctor Phillip Chalmers, who have taken over the Urbenville and Woodenbong Medical Practice.
Dr. May is of Scottish descent (her lovely lilting accent attests to that). Her interests are Woman’s Health, Aged Care and Children’s Health, having previously worked as a G.P. at Collaroy Plateau in Sydney.
Dr. Chalmers is Australian, the eldest of eight children, growing up in Dee Why while living in a two-bedroom home. His father died two weeks before Phillip entered University. Over his career Phillip has spent time as a volunteer in refugee villages in Vietnam, East Timor and Bangladesh working among the poor and the refugees.
He met Carolyn in London. He trained in Psychiatry, working as a G.P. for twenty-five years. His interest is Psychology and is a Fellow of the F.R.A.C.P. He paid tribute to the Rural Doctors Network, an organization which is involved in keeping Doctors in rural areas, where there is a desperate need of their services.
High Country Medical Practice at Urbenville opened its doors on Monday 2nd April 2012. The practitioners Dr Carolyn May and Dr Phillip Chalmers and staff, Mrs. Ros Thompson and Mrs. Jan Smith are delighted to move into their new premises and begin greeting their first patients.
The need for a new medical centre in Urbenville was realised several years ago to serve the local communities in a modern and safe environment and to accommodate visiting practitioners and therapists. Mrs Colleen Scofield, President of the Urbenville Progress Association stated that after many hours spent in negotiation with Tenterfield Shire Council and proud local community members who gave their support was overjoyed that all this had come to fruition. Colleen would like to thank all those concerned at Tenterfield Shire Council, including Don Ramsland who was the then General Manager and involved in the initial stages of the project.
Dr Carolyn May wished to thank the Tenterfield Shire council for this wonderful facility and for arranging and providing funds to make this all possible.
Surgery Hours at Urbenville are Monday to Friday Phone: 02 66341275 and the premises are located in Crown Street crn Beaury Street Urbenville and patients parking is off Crown Street.
Article and Photo: Joyce Marsh. Woodenbong Correspondent.
Photo: L-R Dr Phillip Chalmers, Mrs. Ros Thompson, Mrs. Jan Smith and Dr Carolyn May at High Country Medical Practice Urbenville.
The new Urbenville Medical Centre was officially opened on Wednesday, 1st August 2012 with officials and residents celebrating the new facility which should hopefully secure medical services to the town and surrounds.
Tenterfield Shire Council initially received a federal grant to upgrade the old facility, a converted house, but this was eventually deemed unfeasible according to council’s business and social development officer, Harry Bolton.
“When we started to look at the renovations needed to meet the Australian medical standard, it was going to cost a lot of money,” he said. “The estimated investment required in renovations to upgrade was deemed uneconomical and the decision was made to move to a green field site and build and to sell the old premises to redeem some of the additional investment required.”
The husband and wife team of Doctors Philip Chalmers and Carolyn May had moved from Sydney and taken over the practice with the expectations that the working conditions would improve.
When the decision was made to start from scratch, it took time to find a suitable site and undertake necessary earthworks, Mr. Bolton said. Severe weather conditions interrupted construction when it began last year. The keys to the centre were handed over to the Doctors at the end of last year with the medical practice now happily ensconced in the new building.
Mr. Bolton said. “It was a great outcome for Urbenville and the hospital there. We risked losing the doctors and as it now, the doctors are taking on trainee medical students and mentoring other students. It’s a project that had to happen to retain doctors.”
Deputy Mayor, Peter Petty made the welcoming speech and thanked the many Shire staff and community members involved in the project, saying it was a true partnership project with council contributing half the funds required.
Cr Petty introduced Federal member for Page, Janelle Saffin, who officiated for Federal Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek. “The upgraded Urbenville Medical Centre would be vital to continue providing health services to the Urbenville community and surrounds. The new centre has modern consulting rooms for 2 doctors and a practice nurse “, she said “It will now provide an expanded variety of health services . This modern medical centre will serve Urbenville and the local community well into the future, and provide a great incentive towards recruiting doctors and allied health professionals”
Colleen Scofield, president of the Urbenville Progress Association, said that the centre was a major asset, saving Urbenville from finding itself in the same position as Bonalbo with no doctors. She also said that credit was due to the Tenterfield Shire Council for its ongoing support and for securing the grant. Urbenville was also blessed by having the doctors.
Official guests at the Medical Centre opening were: Hon Janelle Saffin ( Federal Member for Page), Deputy Mayor Peter Petty ( Tenterfield Shire Council), Ms Lotta Jackson (General Manager Tenterfield Shire Council), Doctors May, Chalmers and Lee, Ms Nancy Martin (Executive Officer, Director of Nursing, Urbenville Hospital), Mr Wes Smith (Builder of the Medical Centre), Mrs Colleen Scofield ( President Urbenville Progress Association), Mr Harry Bolton (Business and Social Development Officer Tenterfield Shire)
The Doctors support and mentor young Doctors and Students.
Photo: GP placement mentor participants Peter Ryan and Robert Hoffman with Dr Carolyn May at Urbenville Medical Practice and one of the receptionists Lyn Flint.
Jan Smith Retirement
Jan Smith has retired after 31 years of a stellar career at the Medical Practice in Urbenville. Starting in September 1989 when Dr Hugh Lee asked her to be his medical reception/practice manager, which spanned for 20 years. Preceding to her time from 2008 with Dr Carolyn May and Dr Phillip Chalmers and seeing many changes including the building of the new High Country Medical Practice at Urbenville in 2011.
Jan says: “I have loved every day of working at the Urbenville Medical Practices and with the Doctors, I have loved the opportunity of working with fellow employees and enjoy their enriching friendship.”
“It is with sadness that this amazing journey has come to an end. The time is right, I have always given my best, I am ready. I am blessed to have a wonderful husband, 4 amazing children and their spouses, and eleven grandchildren and also my Mum is a sprightly 92. I want to spend quality time with them all”.
“I have no regrets, only gratitude. Thank you so very much for the journey”.
Dr Hugh Lee and Barbara, his wife, offered endearing words: “Jan was committed, consistent and capable in her work as secretary at the Urbenville surgery over a period of more than twenty years. She was stable and reliable and I would commend her highly in that capacity. The years rolled by quite effortlessly. Thank you, Jan, and many blessings to you and your family. Congratulations Jan, and many thanks for your service to our communities and enjoy a happy retirement.”
Dr Chalmers wrote these endearing words: “Without a shadow of doubt, if it had not been for Jan we would never have been able to move to this lovely area; she welcomed us to the town and showed us the surgery, fed us and made arrangements for us to rent a farm a very short distance from the hospital. All we had to do was come.”
“She and Jim have guided us through transition from city suburban house to so many things of country life they are too numerous to mention and quite outside anything we expected.”
“It is hard to imagine that a new medical centre providing a great range of services acknowledged to be to the highest standard of Accreditation could have eventuated without the tireless and excellent work she performed above and beyond the call of duty.”
The whole community owes an enormous debt of gratitude to her and this should never be forgotten.”
To read Jan’s story “Reminiscing about the changes in the health system during my lifetime” for Urbenville and Woodenbong communities. See woodenbong.org Doctors & Hospital page.
Article and Photo: Joyce Marsh. Woodenbong Correspondent
Jan’s story “Reminiscing about the changes in the health system during my lifetime” for Urbenville and Woodenbong communities
The changes in the health system during my lifetime.
I was born in an ambulance halfway between Woodenbong and Kyogle in 1949.
There was a hospital at Urbenville that had been built in 1939 costing 1,150.00 pounds; my parents however, lived in Woodenbong which had a resident bush nurse. This nurse was called to my Mum’s home, whereupon she urgently summonsed the ambulance from Kyogle. She then dispatched my Mum and Dad to Kyogle in the Woodenbong taxi.
The two vehicles met and the am
bulance men delivered me in the Ambulance car. Needless to say, the taxi driver was relieved. In keeping with that current day protocol, my Dad was discretely led away from the proceedings.
Mother and baby were then transported to the Kyogle hospital to convalesce for at least a week, which was the norm at the time.
There was an ambulance substation at Urbenville that had been established circa 1944. It was not necessarily to serve Tenterfield hospital alone. During the 1940s to 1980s this Ambulance substation was passionately supported financially by the Urbenville Ambulance Committee. Street stalls on Saturday mornings were the norm. In 1968, 6 young women including myself represented committees within the district and held many functions to compete to raise the most money for the Ambulance. This culminated in a street parade with floats and the crowning of the charity queen.
Nowadays, gratefully a fully staffed Ambulance station with 2 ambulance cars, serves the area. The Westpac helicopter service is vital also. A helicopter pad at the Urbenville Showground allows access to the local hospital.
In the 1950’s a dentist travelled from Warwick and practiced from the “old butcher shop” where the fire station is now situated. The dentist had a foot treadle operated drill that often stalled halfway through the drilling of teeth!
When I was 3 years old my family moved to Urbenville.
During the 1950s there was a fire in the Urbenville Hospital. A new hospital was built and the adjacent nurse’s home was the temporary hospital. My sister was born in this building in July 1959 and I have vivid memories of being allowed to visit and talk to Mum through a window near the entry porch.
In my memory Drs Kanarak, Williams, Van Opdenbosh, Tadros, Lee, and currently Drs May and Chalmers served our district.
Dr Kanarak, in the 1960s, routinely performed operations (appendectomies and, tonsillectomies were quite common).Due to families of 4 and 6 children being the norm, the maternity ward was a busy place. The earlier doctors practiced from a room attached to their residences. During the late 1960s the Tenterfield Shire Council purchased the building opposite the town hall and set it up as medical rooms and a residence. This helped to attract doctors to our rural area. Dr Van Opdenbosh was the first to practice in these rooms.
Medicare was introduced by the Australian government in 1975. Previously all doctor consults were paid in cash or cheque. Most people had private cover for safety net when hospitalised. Parents encouraged their children to invest in cover as soon as they started their first employment.
I was blessed to have had my four babies delivered in the Urbenville Hospital. Our first, Karyn , was delivered by Dr Van Opdenbosh in 1972. Gas thankfully was available and gratefully received during delivery.
Until about the 1980, Fathers were prohibited from the delivery room. My husband Jim, summonsed to the hospital from the football field, sat in the waiting room until after the delivery. He, being a farmer and having delivered many calves, always said he had no regrets! However, when our fourth child, Kimberley was born in 1981, Jim was encouraged to attend the delivery. He professes it was wonderful, and this modern rule proved a very special part of bonding.
Back then, the visiting hours were 2.30 to 3.30 pm and 7.00 to 8.00 pm. The staff were true professionals. The matron commanded respect and wore a stiffly starched white veil and uniform.. The nurses wore an equally starched blue or white cap. The domestic staff was ruled with discipline. Powder was sprinkled under the doily on my bedside table by the superior, to be checked later in case cleaning was not immaculate. The meals were hearty, cooked on site in the kitchen, starkly different to the present system of meals being transported by courier from Casino.
Mothers and babies remained in hospital at least a week, convalescing, and catching up on sleep, as the babies were never allowed to remain in the ward with the mother. Breast feeding, was not deemed to be essential, or even actually preferable, if any difficulty was experienced!
The Urbenville Hospital overlooks an amazing view of the Crown and Beehive mountains, the town and our dairy farm. The maternity room on the veranda was lovely and there were lots of visitors and friendly staff.
We owe a lot of gratitude to Dr Hugh Lee, who safely delivered our youngest in 1981. She was the second last baby delivered at the Urbenville Hospital, before the maternity ward was decommissioned. Due to complications during birth, I was transported by ambulance to Lismore Base Hospital. The clinical staff there was shocked to find baby Kimberley was not sent with me in the ambulance. I was grateful, as this expedited my return to the Urbenville Hospital and to be reunited with my baby and family
After the decommissioning of the maternity ward, Dr Lee was still on call for infrequent emergency baby deliveries.
Dr Hugh Lee with his wife Barbara arrived in Urbenville to practice, in 1980.. Dr Lee served the community of Woodenbong and Urbenville until his retirement in March 2008. Sessions were in Urbenville each weekday morning and afternoons at a surgery in Woodenbong. He allowed himself to be on call 24/7 at the Urbenville Hospital in the early days. . He gave of himself completely to his profession, and his commitment was legendary.
During his tenure the Hospital was transformed to The Urbenville Multi Purpose Service, a blueprint now used within the health system. This incorporated an Emergency outpatient department, a four bed Inpatient department, and 24 room nursing hostel.
Although I worked very briefly for Dr Van Opdenbosh, I consider my employment in the medical profession to have started in September 1989 when Dr Lee asked me to be his medical reception/practice manager. I worked for him for 20 years. He was kind, fair, understanding and I loved his hearty laugh.
How different the practice was in 1989!
Patients did not necessarily make appointments, but arrived on spec….usually being seen post haste. The number of cars parked outside the surgery was the main indicator of availability of an appointment.
Appointments were pencilled into a book.
Medicare bulk billing was available to all patients. A triplicate form was signed by each patient. The medicare copy was totalled with a calculator, weekly, and sent to Medicare by registered mail from the Urbenville Post Office (which was established in 1909 but closed in recent years.) The cheque would arrive within a fortnight and manually banked at the bank. (The NAB was opened in 1917 because of the gold rush at Tooloom. It closed in 2007.)
Technology now allows submission of bulk billing to be transmitted by internet and direct credit of payment within 24 hours.
Visits by a doctor to a patient at the hospital have to be billed to that hospital. To produce this account I would use a manual typewriter, one that one had to push the carriage back at the end of each line! I learned typing and shorthand at Casino TAFE in 1966 and this has been invaluable. This hospital account would be delivered to the hospital by hand on completion and paid in due course.
Once again, technology now allows the account to be sent via highly secure internet, and payment is direct credit.
In the year 2000 the practice became computerised. Dr Lee contemplated using voice recognition, but instead successfully conquered typing. The small cards for each patient that the doctor used for hand written notes became a thing of the past.
Blood tests have always been a service provided by the doctors. Prior to the internet, the samples were collected by a courier, and the practice waited for days before results were posted back. Although emergency results could be phoned through to the doctor, I always thought….you wouldn’t want to be really sick!
Pathology results that are completed are now downloaded from the pathologist to the doctor’s computer automatically, next day.
Although there was a Chemist in Woodenbong earlier, by the 1990s this chemist was closed. Dr Lee, Dr May and Dr Chalmers provided the service of dispensing medication in conjunction with the Kyogle Pharmacy and collecting payments. Twice, the surgery was broken into and the pharmacy funds stolen. Thankfully the Woodenbong Pharmacy opened again in recent years.
In its wisdom, the government introduced a system of assessment of medical practices called Accreditation. This started about 2000 and still happens every 3 years. It has become progressively onerous.
For the first Accreditation, to conform to the requirement of presentation, I tentatively asked the Tenterfield Shire to paint the wall at the entry to the surgery. This, they did. In hindsight, I guess I should have asked for more!
To allow Dr Lee some respite, periodically a locum would attend for a few weeks. One of these was Karyn our daughter, who is a GP and was specialising in rural practice at the time. What a thrill it was for me to work with my daughter. We joked about who was “the boss”. It truly made me aware of the commitment required by a doctor on call. The anticipation of phone calls during the night from the hospital can only be harrowing, but none of the doctors I worked with ever complained.
Dr Lee announced his impending retirement in 2007. Succession planning is almost impossible in rural practices. To this day the shortage of doctors in rural areas is renowned. The commitment to hospital, long hours, lack of peer support, requirements for spouses and education of their children are all factors. Our attempts to find a new doctor seemed futile.
Drs Carolyn May and Phillip Chalmers, who lived in North Shore Sydney, had been contemplating a rural practice, including hospital Visiting Medical Officer positions, and a small farm with a home.
Dr May proceeded to do locums in rural areas, one of which was Kyogle. She loved the Northern Rivers country, and through the Rural Doctors Association was encouraged to visit the Urbenville Woodenbong practice.
After visiting Dr Lee at his home in Woodenbong, they and their daughter (one of 6 children) presented to my home for a tour of the practice rooms and the hospital. We had an impromptu lunch and a wonderful chat during which I concluded that if their daughter Lucy was any indication, they must be a wonderful family.
After negotiations with the Tenterfield Shire Council that the Urbenville surgery would be improved to a modern and workable practice, they agreed with Dr Lee that they would take over the practice at his leisure.
My neighbour, (a very good friend) owned the next door farm. It was arranged that as it was presently vacant, the Doctors could rent the home until they found their dream farm. It transpired that in time they were to buy this farm and home, which they still love so much.
The TSC deemed that to build a new building on a Greenfield site in the same street, but closer to the hospital would be a better alternative to renovation of the original surgery. This allowed the continuation of the practice until the building was completed.
From March 2008 to April 2011 while the new building was being constructed we prevailed. The building leaked from the ceiling and water ingressed through the floor. The ceilings continually were mouldy. In very wet times, the farmers took their muddy boots off and left them at the front door. Consequently their socks were wet from the sodden carpet. We joked that we needed to take an umbrella and boots to the toilet, as water dripped through the light fitting onto the floor at our feet. During one storm, when the next door guttering overflowed, I was busily typing, when I dropped a manila folder onto the floor…only to find it was floating on water!!
The first flood after the doctors arrived introduced new experiences and protocols. Their home became flooded in, by the Boomi Creek. As they were ON Call at the hospital, and a Doctor was needed, Dr May was ferried across the flooded creek by the SES in their boat. She stayed with us at our home until the water subsided some days later. This was only one of the many obstacles, including the issue of our area not having mobile coverage until 2019.
On 2nd April 2011, the new medical building and practice was opened. I sadly, missed the first few weeks of this very exciting and challenging time, as I was undergoing radiation therapy. Moving to this new practice, now named High Country Medical Practice, was the pinnacle of my career. Working for Dr May and Dr Chalmers, wonderful friends, was a delight. The building is a fully resourced, modern building that has become the pride of our community. It was beyond my wildest dreams. I absolutely loved the new phone system and 4 incoming lines (only ever having had one inadequate line for the busy practice this had become.)
Monday mornings are crazy…patient, doctors, allied health, Dr May often detained at the hospital, and managing phones all on hold…my best memory of all. I loved it!!
I have been forwarded the autonomy to create a business model I am proud of, while the doctors created a clinical practice that is outstanding. With their vision, the allied health room is used by podiatrists, audiologists, paediatricians, and a physiotherapist. A practice Nurse is employed. They have mentored student doctors.
The Multi Purpose Service has been upgraded and a new Emergency Department opened last year.
Dr Chalmers continued to practice from the Woodenbong building from 2008 to 2011. This practice was then closed to allow him to provide his patients the best in facilities and resources and care at the new practice. After a long and varied career and some health issues he has continued to steadfastly care for his patients. His support of Carolyn is wonderful. Jim and I have been nominated as “family”, attending their family weddings and rejoicing in the arrival of their 6 grandchildren.
The practice has flourished and become very busy. Dr May provides six sessions at the surgery per week, and an outreach clinic at Muli Muli Aboriginal community. She is now the sole Visiting Medical Officer at the Urbenville Multi Purpose Service. This includes on call to the emergency department and visiting rights to the 4 inpatient beds. She also is available to the residents of the nursing home. I am constantly in awe of her dedication, commitment and kindness to all her patients.
I have loved every day of working at the Urbenville Medical Practice and the High Country Medical Practice for Dr Lee, Dr Chalmers and Dr May. It has been an honour to be there for and befriend patients of four generations during the 31 years. It has also been wonderful to be able to welcome all new residents to our area, and to getting to know them has been a privilege.
As the practice grew, I have loved the opportunity of working with fellow employees and enjoy their enriching friendship.
It is with sadness that this amazing journey has come to an end. The time is right, I have always given my best, I am ready. I am blessed to have a wonderful husband, 4 amazing children and their spouses, and eleven grandchildren and also my Mum is a sprightly 92. I want to spend quality time with them all.
I have no regrets, only gratitude. Thank you so very much for the journey.