Dr Grahame Jelley has now stepped down from his role of Rural GP Chapter Chair and National Advisory Council (NAC) member. In recognition of his contribution, NAC Chair Dr Aniva Lawrence presented Grahame with a thank you gift (pictured left).
The wildlife may be very different in Zimbabwae to the New Zealand bush, but Dr Grahame Jelley says rural people have the same pragmatic approach to life and sense of community wherever you go.
And he should know, having worked in mission hospitals across Africa, with some of the most isolated communities on the South Island’s West Coast and on Aituataki, as part of a programme run by the College and the Cook Island’s Ministry of Health.
Grahame, along with his wife Renene, a nurse, and his young family, arrived in New Zealand nearly 20 years ago with just $78 in his pocket, escaping the terrible political and economic situation in his native Zimbabwae.
The couple had previously spent six months working near Westport, deciding if moving to New Zealand would be an option.
“It was very hard to leave everything we had worked for in Zimbabwe, our business, our families, our community,” says Grahame. “But we knew we had to get out and I will be forever grateful to New Zealand for the opportunity to come here and make a life for ourselves and our children.”
Grahame had built up a small solo general practice over nearly a decade near the town of Chipinge on the Eastern border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The practice included a small cottage hospital to provide inpatient care and radiography and laboratory services. He also spent one night a week at the 60-bed regional hospital in town.
“There is a mixed model of care in Africa,” he explains. “The public health service looks after the large indigenous population, while blue and white collar workers access private insurance services similar to Southern Cross here in New Zealand, paid for either individually or by an employer. It’s a clear two sector service. Serving both communities, as a doctor, you see patients from the different ends of the scale and the effects of poverty can be stark.”
He had also previously worked on a large sugar estate, as one of five GPs delivering inpatient and outpatient services to the more than 35,000 people that lived and worked there, as well as public health services such as Bilharzia and malaria control and early HIV interventions