Looking Back: Dr Ted Blomfield - no power, no sleep all in a day’s work

CONTINUING the story of Dr Ted Blomfield. The last story was about him starting up a practice in Pambula and continues on from there.

Medical marvels: Dr John McKee, Matron Catherson and Dr Ted Blomfield. Dr Ted spoke of the challenges of servicing Pambula as a GP, often without electricity.

Medical marvels: Dr John McKee, Matron Catherson and Dr Ted Blomfield. Dr Ted spoke of the challenges of servicing Pambula as a GP, often without electricity.

With the electricity in Pambula coming on at dawn until 10am and dusk until 10pm, procedures such as X-rays and operations had to be scheduled around those times.

“If there was an emergency, Mr Murrel who owned the power house, would start up the engine, but any babies that came through the night had to be delivered by lamp light,” Dr Ted said.

The hospital even had to have its water pumped up from the town well which was situated near the Pambula tennis courts.

House calls were a common occurrence. There were no sealed roads south of Batemans Bay, and what roads there were were windy, corrugated and dusty.

In the early days Dr Ted said his was a very personalised service.

“The name family doctor really summed it up because you really were almost part of the family. Being on duty all the time and working a 90 to 100-hour week placed a great strain on doctors.”

He recalled one particular time when he had to work 24 hours straight, and then carry on the next day after just an hour-and-a-half sleep.

“I got up at 6am in the morning and went out to Towamba for my monthly clinic, returning late that afternoon.

“A patient was then brought in with a ruptured appendix which I had to take out, and then  just as I was about to go to bed, I was called out to Rocky Hall, where someone had just had a heart attack.

“I finally got to bed at 6am the next morning, but then had to be back up again at 7.30am to do another full day's work.”

Dr Ted remembers one call to Burragate very well. When he arrived he was told the patient was in the toilet, then had to have a shower, so he was given a 12 gauge shot gun and sent out to shoot rabbits until the patient was ready. He went out but didn't manage to shoot any rabbits.

For his monthly Towamba trip he would often take one of the nurses.

He rented a room at the wine bar for a surgery and the women and children would come in one side for the whooping cough and diphtheria vaccinations, while up the other end the men were merrily drinking.

More on Dr Blomfield next week.