Northern Suburbs Medical Service has been established in the middle-class working
suburbs of northern Launceston for well over forty years.
The practice was started by Dr. John Gunson who opened a surgery in 1958
at the top of the Mowbray Hill opposite the Mowbray Hotel. Dr. Gunson
graduated in 1952 in Adelaide. He had worked for a time in Darwin,
then at the Mersey General Hospital at Latrobe, and later was the
Government Medical Officer at Georgetown.
Mrs. Beth Coombes was Dr. Gunson's second receptionist, who stayed with
the practice until 1993 as practice manager.
Dr. Gunson's move to Mowbray was a first for Launceston. Dr. Gunson sensed
a need for a doctor to eschew the then traditional doctors' strip in the
main street of Launceston (Brisbane Street), and move to the outlying
suburbs where people were living and working - the 'local' doctor had
truly become local.
Two years later in 1960, Dr. Gunson was joined by Dr. Bertel Sundstrup
in a joint practice on the present site at 278 Invermay Road, in a
house owned by local pharmacist Mr Wally Rumney (see photograph of the
practice house circa 1972)
In 1962, the Mowbray doctors' fee for a standard consultation was exactly
One Pound, a notable amount in terms of average weekly earnings at the time.
Dr. Gunson was joined by Drs. John Birchill and Dr. Frank Madill in the mid-1960s
with Dr. Sundstrup departing for hospital-based practice. By the early
1970s a thriving group practice had been established. For a short time
Dr. Bob Brown worked with the practice, during his formative conservationist years in Tasmania,
prior to becoming a federal government Senator.
For a number of years, the practice serviced the picturesque outlying town of
Lilydale, with Dr. Gunson and Dr. Madill consulting there regularly.
The practice building for most of the 1960's and early 1970's was, as
was usual for the times and even now, an old converted house.
In the early 1970's because of practice growth, the partners decided
that a new building was required. In another first for the practice and
for Launceston, a purpose-designed and built surgery was constructed,
at the current location.
In the late 1970s, a surgery was set up in the
government-built Ravenswood community health centre. We provided
services at the Ravenswood site until December 1997.
In 1977, the practice adopted the RACGP Health Record system, a move followed by few practices at the time.
Dr. Gerard Gill joined in 1980, and in the following year a purpose-built
surgery was located at 121 Georgetown Road Newnham to help service the
growing northern suburban fringe and outlying rural areas.
Additional partners who have come and gone over this time include Drs.
Brian Driver, David Poustie, Neil Filgate, Chris Luttrell and Andrew
Dr. Andrew Jackson joined in 1984, and became a partner a year later. He is currently
the practice principal and sole owner of the practice.
In 1986, very early on in the personal computer revolution, we were one of
the first practices in Tasmania to 'computerise' the business, with
computerised accounts and appointment systems coming on-line.
We were one of the first practices to embrace efficiency of faxing of
patient information, and in 1991 successfully called on the Launceston
General Hospital to follow suite.
In the mid-1990's, in response to the increasing need for small business,
including general practices, to be efficiently and effectively managed,
we employed a full-time practice manager with tertiary business
qualifications, Mr. Steve Burris. This was another practice 'first'
for Tasmania, and recognised the partner's view that great clinical
practice requires excellence in business management.
In 1998, the practice introduced clinical computing to the doctor's desktop.
Three years later, we introduced a Wide Area Network 'thin-client'
based clinical computing system, the first in Tasmania to do so.
This produced a revolution in the ability of our doctors to increase
the efficiency and standard of service delivery, which continues today.
In 1997 we were the first practice in Tasmania to use 'direct mail'
campaigns for influenza vaccination, and later pneumococcal
(anti-pneumonia) vaccine, to significantly boost the awareness and
uptake of these important vaccines in our local community.
We were in the first cohort of practices in Australia to be officially
accredited with AGPAL, demonstrating a
strong and enduring commitment to providing the best possible clinical
services to patients of the northern suburbs and beyond.
At the turn of the new millennium, the then partners Dr. Gill and Dr.
Jackson recognised that the Mowbray buildings were not fully-suited to
providing the best possible facilities for patients and staff to use.
An intense period of planning followed. In 2003, with Dr. Andrew
Jackson as sole practice principal, and over a six month period,
the practice was completely renovated and upgraded, successfully
integrating the rear of the old pharmacy at 276 Invermay Road into the surgery.
We now provide for patients, staff, and doctors, one of the best
surgery environments in Tasmania in which to visit and work.
The Importance of Nurses
NSMS has long recognised the importance of nurses and nursing to
general practice, employing 'ENs' (enrolled nurses) and 'TANs'
(trained auxiliary nurses) for hands-on patient duties since the mid
In 1997 it was recognised that RNs (Registered Nurse) would be needed
to help cope with the increasing demands being placed on general
practice by the governments and the community. The practice assisted
the upgrade of one of our EN's Mrs. Sandra Burris by facilitating her
In 2002 we created the new position of 'Senior Nurse - General
Practice'. This role was subsequently filled by Mrs. Sandra Burris
RN. We have been one of the first private general practices in Tasmania to recognise the coming
need and importance of having full-time RN expertise in the practice
to support the doctors and to help develop additional services for
In 2001, we were the first and remain the only Launceston practice to
place a team in Rotary's Relay for Life', a continuous 24hour relay
that raises money for cancer research and care. Relay for Life
commenced in the United States in the 1980's and has become one
of the biggest international cancer fund-raising success stories
of the last thirty years.
And in Christmas Week 2004, Monday 20 December, we were the first general medical practice in Tasmania, and possibly Australia, to go online
with a fully-comprehensive 'content-rich' web site - that you are currently
In 2009 we were by notified by Medicare Australia that, for childhood immunisation performed by the practice, we had achieved an unprecedented 96.8% fully-immunised rate for children that attend us. This compared with the northern Tasmania division of general practice average fully-immunised rate at the time of 89.4%. This is a very rewarding first for both our practice and the children that attend, and a tribute to our current immunisation-certified practice nurse Vicki Jordan RN."
In 2011 our Dr. Gerard Gill was 'head-hunted" to become the first Professor of Regional & Rural General Practice at Deakin University, Geelong,
Victoria. By this time, Dr. Gill had served the northern suburbs community with excellence for thirty years. He was the first home-grown GP in the
north of the Tasmania to elevate to such an eminent academic position while simultaneously working 'at the coalface' in General Practice.
His loss to the practice and the local medical community is significant but we wish Professor Gill all the best in his new venture interstate.
Northern Suburbs Medical Service has a proud history of 'firsts'. We will
continue to aspire to provide the best services in the best environment,
now and in the future.
Our thanks to everyone - doctors, nurses, practice managers, staff, and
patients - who have been part of the NSMS success story over the past
four and-a-half decades.
Northern Suburbs Medical Service (NSMS) Launceston Tasmania Australia