Getting in touch

Practice hours are 
Monday - Friday
8am until 5.30pm

Phone: (04) 939 9393

Fax: (04) 939 9390

 

75 Ottawa Road
Ngaio
Wellington 6035

 

2017 Flu Vaccinations.
Please make an appointment
to see the nurse.

 

 

 

History & Heritage

There has been medical practice in Ngaio since 1924 when an English graduate, Dr Eldon Litchfield, opened a surgery at the bottom of Awarua Street next door to the present building. This doctor was famed for his high fees - for many consultations he charged by the guinea. Prior to this time the area was served by doctors from Willis Street – Drs Gilmer, McGavin and Ewart. These were the days when tonsils, appendixes and even gall bladders were removed on kitchen tables, and hospital confinements were most unusual. Early histories record the work of Dr Samuel Curl a former ship's surgeon, a Dr Graham Robertson from England and a Dr George Saunders from Aberdeen.

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Dr. Bertram Wright and young patient

A Dr Bertram Wright from Edinburgh worked in Johnsonville from 1920. He had lost an eye in a laboratory explosion when working as a chemist. From the 1930s Dr Bob Aitken worked in Khandallah. His home and surgery were situated among beautiful gardens now replaced by the Khandallah New World supermarket and car park. He once recorded seeing 99 patients in the same day. During the Depression, he found that only seven percent of his patients were earning sufficient to be able to contribute to hospital care. In 1935 the area's first district nurse, Sister Hodder, arrived. Dr Aitken, a likeable eccentric, was what could have been described as a 'Type A personality'. There are many anecdotes about him including how, when visiting the well known identity Snow Perkins, the barber whose establishment was taken over by Stella in the mid 1970s, he insisted on entering, sitting in the chair, getting his hair cut, catching up on the gossip, paying the bill and leaving all within a minute - otherwise he would demand his money back. Nevertheless he was nearly 100 when he died in 2000. Dr Graham Woods replaced him working in Ganges Road opposite the town hall from 1965.

The Khandallah practice has since grown to six doctors and has moved around the corner to Dekka Street . The Ngaio practice had moved to 29 Kenya Street behind the clock tower at the bottom of the hill. The ‘surgery' operated from the home's stables, which have since given way to a tennis court. Dr Brian Kelly worked originally in this building before moving to Melbourne where he became an eminent cardiologist.

An Otago graduate, Dr Joseph Costello and nicknamed ‘Needle Joe' by his patients, worked during the 1930s up until 1952. He had a reputation for offering an injection for even the most trivial complaint. Joe's real name was actually John Winferton, who was a medical student.   Because medical school is an undergraduate curriculum, he had not yet received a degree and was therefore enlisted in the NZMC as a private. He finished medical school after the war and was registered in 1923. Then, he practised in Napier, but then went to the UK for sanatorium treatment. He practised in Ranfurly in 1936 and then served in WWII as SMO Burnham Camp. He moved to Ngaio in 1949 and died in 1952.

INSERT INSERT   He had a brother called Charles Desmond Costello, also a doctor. The right sided lancet window behind the alter in All Saints Chuch is a memorial to this doctor. American relatives are presently asking the Centre's staff for information on Dr Jo.  We would be interested in any information from anyone with long memories.

An Irish graduate, Patrick Delany, who had worked in England during the war and later became a surgeon on a Royal Navy aircraft carrier, took over Dr Costello's practice. The warship, along with officers, was gifted to Australia at the cessation of hostilities and Dr Delany had no choice but to serve as an Australian. On a two day goodwill visit to Wellington, he met his future wife who had just finished serving with the NZ occupation 'J Force' army in Japan. After their marriage, Paddy Delany took shore duties in Sydney but returned to Wellington on Dr Costello's death. Paddy's wife considered herself to be an amateur draughtswoman and designed the new purpose-built practice that was opened in 1960.

1960
Ngaio Surgery circa 1968
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Drs. Paddy Delany and Ted Harding.

Two Holocaust survivors - Drs Sluki and Gurstle helped out intermittently during this period. The former lived and worked from the Georgian-style building on Ottawa Road opposite the petrol station. Dr Ted Harding joined the practice in 1964 after completing postgraduate work in London. Each doctor worked a half day at either Ngaio or Johnsonville. Ted was a fourth generation Wellington doctor. Old photographs of Wellington show his great grandfather's fifteen-roomed house and surgery designed by Thomas Turnbull, built in 1878, on Perrett's Corner. The large house, which contained a schoolroom on the ground floor, was unfortunately demolished in the early 1970s.

The 1960s and 70s were the golden years for general practice in many ways but house calls were numerous (up to 25 each day), obstetrics was normal and the doctors were perpetually on call. Few of the ancillary services were available. The Johnsonville Medical Centre was joined by Dr Barry McGuiness in the early 1970s. After a number of years when Dr Alan Cockburn and, later, Dr Richard Tyler, entered practice, the Johnsonville doctors built a practice on Broderick Road leaving Drs Harding and Delany committed to Ngaio alone. The region had grown substantially during these decades. Churton Park, Broadmeadows, Chartwell and even much of Crofton Downs were not in existence until the 1970s. In 1970 Dr Mary Coldham joined the practice, and when she moved to Auckland in January 1983 Dr Denis Delany joined the practice.

Dr McGuiness notes that he was often the only doctor serving Johnsonville. Now there are 12 working at the Johnsonville Medical Centre and a further three at the nearby Onslow Medical practice - none of whom practise obstetrics. He remembers how Johnsonville up until the mid 1960s was like an American wild west town. Cattle were carried by train from the lower North Island and were held in stock yards in the central flat area now taken over by the mall (which was not built until the late 1980s) before being driven down the Ngaraunga Gorge to the meat companies.  Locals had to put up with wild cowboys from 'up the line', the noise and smell of the vast numbers of cows and often had to help round up the odd run-away. He noted how there was a church (on the corner of the main street and Normal Lane which was opposite a blacksmith. He remembers two brothels on (or just off) the main street. I am unable to confirm the existance of these brothels after talking to a few old timers - this may be because of the more select company that I keep. I do however remember the lovely old hotel demolished to make way for the KFC and the refreshing park taken over by the petrol station and a 'McDonalds' outlet.  

1983
Drs Paddy, Ted and Denis.

Dr Harding and both Dr Delanys held various positions in medical politics. Paddy Delany was the first President of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners being responsible for the breaking away from the London ‘mother organisation'.

1984
1984 staff

Dr Harding was the Treasurer for many years and all three held various positions on the local College Faculty including Chairman. Dr Paddy Delany also held various executive position in the Medical Association and the Medical Council. He retired in 1990 after having been a doctor for over 50 years. Various women worked in the practice including Drs Marian McInnes, a long time Ngaio resident and part-time doctor from Titahi Bay, married to John, the well know local fishing authority who often parades around the suburb in his kilt, Rachel Hardy-Boys, who shifted to London and then home to Waikanae, during the 1980s and Jenny Visser during the 1990s.

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The 'engine room' (Andrea, Brigid and Marianne). Photograph Courtesy of Colin McDiarmid

Dr Visser was the main instigator of renovating the buildings. Major work was completed in 2001. Following a two year stint volunteering as the sole Medical Officer at the Kunde Hospital in Nepal on the track up to Everest Base Camp, founded and built by Sir Edmond Hillary, Dr. Carol Nicholson joined the practice for a further five years. Staff enjoyed her accounts of operating with an open text book and primus lamp under somewhat primitive conditions many miles from the nearest assistance. She returned to her original home on Waiheke Island in late 2006 and was replaced by Dr Joelen Hays who lives in Ngaio but had worked in Lower Hutt. Dr. Judith Laing from Glasgow joined in 2004 and in 2005 we welcomed Dr Rosy Fenwicke who had previously worked in Eastbourne and the Hawkes Bay. Another Otago graduate, Isobelle Carbonatto joined in 2006. Born in Ecuador with a Dutch mother and French father of Italian descent, Isobelle grew up in Australia, Uruguay and later Karori. Isobelle is married to Brendon who hails from Blackball, Greymouth. Brendon is a well know Paediatric Surgeon.

presentdesign
Present Design (before trees).

Dr Visser is now pursuing her interests in teaching at the Medical School and Travel Medicine working at the Vaccination Centre. She has traveled a number of time to the Antarctic. In 2005 Ted Harding retired and sadly died in August 2007.

The practice also boasts a number of ancillary practitioners. Dr Tim Halpine, originally from Nebraska, is a podiatrist and works at Ngaio Medical Centre on Fridays. Michelle Vincent who in a previous life worked as a top Wellington chef, now works from the practice as a midwife.  Our current registered psychologist is Robyn Curtis.

The Ngaio practice was one of the first in Wellington to be fully computerised. 

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2005 Doctors and staff.