Dr Keith Buswell – the self-effacing leader of an innovative Te Kuiti general practice offering both primary and hospital level services – has won this year’s major rural health award.

The King Country GP was announced as the winner of the 2018 Peter Snow Memorial award at the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network’s annual conference in Auckland at the weekend.

Buswell, who has been a rural GP in Te Kuiti for more than 30 years was nominated for his ‘innovation and service to rural health’ having been the founding partner of a practice that moved into the Te Kuiti hospital site in 1994 and offered to take on medical care for the hospital – including acute emergencies.

He said the award was a “bolt out of the blue” and he was honoured to be included with the group of rural GPs and nurses who had received the award. The award has been presented since 2007 to honour the life and work of leading Tapanui GP Peter Snow.

Buswell also acknowledged the role of his wife and fellow GP Elly Kroef with whom he job shared from about 1986 until the last of their children went to school.  He said that was the start of the group – that included John Earwaker and Mike Miskelly – that lead to the formation of the 1994 hospital-based practice.

“I’m delighted I have to have been able to form what has been a type of practice seen as innovative and a combination of primary and secondary care in a rural town,” said Buswell. “It shows the two can blend together in a rural setting.”

“It’s also been satisfying seeing GPs able to work at a higher level, at hospital practice level and with the clinical decision-making required at that level. It’s a reflection of what all rural GPs do every day, except in our situation it’s a little more formalised.”

The citation for Buswell’s nomination said he was always willing to support rural health research and had participated in studies on prostate cancer, a mental health survey and diabetes and heart studies.

“Overall he has proved an innovator, a leader and a teacher whose contribution to his community, to the Waikato and nationally has been immense – and yet has been hidden due to his self-effacing nature and natural tendency to put others first, said the citation.

“Through Keith’s leadership general practice in Te Kuiti is now held up as a model of integrated, community engaged rural general practice.”

Buswell said variety was the essence of rural general practice which offered the opportunity to keep learning and add to your skills every day; along with becoming closely involved in the community you work in.

“I see rural general practice as a viable thing in the future and more challenging than its urban counterpart which I believe has a narrower scope of practice. “

The comprehensive primary care practice was set up in 1994 with the support of the then Waikato Crown Health Enterprise  Taking on medical cover for the hospital – including the emergency department – meant all GPs in the King Country town had to be comfortable in managing acute emergencies and keeping their emergency care skills up to date.

Since 2005 the practice has also been involved in hosting programmes for 2nd year medical students interested in rural practice.  Buswell was also a key supporter of a pilot primary health care model to enable practice nurses to trial a different way of working and also supported a 2009 Waikato DHB Community Heart Failure project pilot which was later rolled out to other rural centres.

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