Carrying a legacy of women in general practice

Morgan Liotta

26/10/2018 11:31:52 AM

Barrack Street Practice was opened by Hobart’s first female GP, and still boasts an all-female GP team today.

Barrack Street Practice offers a holistic model of family-focused care, from an all-female GP team.
Barrack Street Practice offers a holistic model of family-focused care, from an all-female GP team.

Hobart, 1927: Dr Christine Walch sets up a small general practice in a house purchased by her father.
With no other female GPs in Hobart at the time, Dr Walch’s humble practice grew when female patients sought her, and her expertise in obstetrics, out.
Dr Walch continued to practise until her retirement in 1954, when another female GP, Dr Valerie Davenport, took over and relocated the practice to Barrack Street, in the outer centre of Hobart.
The legacy of female GPs has remained since then, with Barrack Street Practice today hosting an entire clinical team of women.
Phil Murphy is the Business and Practice Manager at Barrack Street Practice, and incidentally, the only male staff member.
‘We have all female GPs, and in the 10 years that I’ve been here, we’ve never had a male GP, not even a locum. I’m still the only male here,’ Mr Murphy told newsGP.
‘At present we have 26 staff – eight GPs, four nurses and an enrolled nurse,’ he said.
‘Two of those nurses look after the day-to-day general practice stuff. Then another nurse and the enrolled nurse look after all the aged patients and do home health assessments.
‘Another nurse is dedicated solely to chronic disease management, and until recently we had a mental health nurse.’

Phil-Murphy-Article.jpgPhil Murphy has been the Business and Practice Manager at Barrack Street Practice for 10 years.

The philosophy of having an all-female GP team is one that Dr Walch hoped to carry on, so it seems her wish has been granted, according to Mr Murphy.
‘I think that philosophy [of having all female GPs] continued for many years, particularly through Dr Davenport’s time,’ he said.
‘As the practice emerged and evolved, it just naturally ended up being that way.’

Mr Murphy recalls at times when the practice was recruiting for new doctors, it never really attracted male doctors, perhaps because of the reputation.
‘But obviously if a male doctor applied for a job, we’re not going to knock them back – I think we’d run into a lot of trouble,’ he laughed.
Mr Murphy cites family values as another firm philosophy of Barrack Street Practice.
‘It’s a family-focused practice – that goes from the internal workings and how we look at our patient demographic,’ he said.
‘We have the great-grandchildren now of patients attending the practice.’
And the idea of strong family values rings true, according to Mr Murphy.
‘For some [of our] patients, this has been their only practice – even back from when Dr Davenport was practising, and she’s been passed away now for quite a few years.’
Although the Barrack Street Practice still holds on to its history and original philosophy of a female-led practice, Mr Murphy has witnessed recent change in the form of patient demographics, with younger singles and families moving in to the area.
‘Our patient demographic has switched considerably over the last 10 years,’ he said.
‘One of the reasons for that change is that the demographic is getting younger, and that’s due in part to our registrar program.
‘We’ve also attracted younger practitioners, which in turn, has attracted younger patients.’

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