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55 years of Fiordland's Medical Centre chronicled

The Southland App

Alina Suchanski

04 April 2024, 6:56 AM

55 years of Fiordland's Medical Centre chronicledCo-authors Bill and Lathee Verrall with a copy of their recently published book 'The Fiordland Medical Centre – a History'. Photo: The Southland App

A new local history book The Fiordland Medical Centre – a History, researched and written by long-time Te Anau residents, Lathee and Bill Verrall and published by The Friends of the Library will be launched at the Te Anau Club this Friday (5 April).

As the title suggests, the 240-page volume chronicles the history of the Fiordland Medical Centre from 1968 when John Moore became the first doctor based in Te Anau, before the Medical Centre was even built in 1969, to 2023. 

Te Anau doctor, Steve Hoskin, came up with the idea of documenting the history of the Fiordland Medical Centre and was looking for the right person to do the job.


The retired couple Lathee and Bill Verrall had the skillset required.

Both were associated with Fiordland College for many years, Bill as the principal and Lathee as an English teacher.

Mrs Verrall has published an autobiographical book about growing up in the Maldives, and during the Covid lockdown coordinated and compiled Fiordland in lockdown, a collection of stories by Te Anau residents.

The couple volunteered for the medical history project as an act of appreciation for the community’s involvement with the Fiordland in lockdown production, and decided to do it as a community service. 

“I did all the research, putting together the timeline and organising interviews,” Mrs Verrall said. 

“We both went to interviews together and both took notes, which we then used to produce the first draft. Bill did most of the polishing and writing for the final draft. I’m very happy that Bill and I worked together well. The whole project was very interesting, and we got to meet many wonderful people,” she said.

Fiordland Heath Trust members along with funders and around 200 residents turned out at the opening of Fiordland's current medical centre on 16th October 2010. Photo: Advocate South

The book includes the stories of all doctors, nurses and medical staff to date, and is organised around a chapter dedicated to each person.

In addition, there are three chapters for each of the Ambulance, the Search and Rescue and the buildings.

The biggest challenge, according to the authors, was finding the information and tracking down the people, many of whom have left Te Anau.

The project took 3 years to complete due to interruptions by Covid and an overseas trip the couple undertook last year. The book was printed by the Quenstown-based Print Central.

“I think that it’s a book people will enjoy reading. The history of the Fiordland Medical Centre is unique in that it owns its own building and has nine doctors, when most rural communities in New Zealand struggle for doctors or even have to close because of that. This is a magnificent example of a success story,” Mr Verrall said.

What makes it so successful, according to Mr Verrall, is not only Te Anau’s beautiful location and outdoor opportunities, but also community support, greater variety of work, and staff initiatives, such as Dr David Hamilton’s turning of the Medical Centre into a teaching practice, where young doctors come for their practical experience.

The Verralls are very happy with the finished product and are grateful to the Te Anau community for their help and support.

In particular, they would like to thank Marilyn Hunter, the chair of the Friends of the Library, for publishing the book, Diane Ridley for her knowledge of the Medical Centre history and Ian Campbell for preparing all the photos for the book.

The Fiordland Medical Centre – a History will be launched at the Te Anau Club on Friday 5 April at 7pm.

Books are $40 and will be available at the launch, at the Te Anau Library or by emailing [email protected]

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