Much-loved doctor leaves after 17 years at West Coast Health

Raglan bid a fond farewell to much-loved doctor Fiona Bolden recently as she leaves West Coast Health to dedicate more time to her passion of rural health advocacy.

More than 50 people gathered at the bowling club to celebrate the impact Fiona has had on the community in the 17 years she was with the practice.

Local kaumatua Russell Riki spoke of the inclement weather as a sign of the community’s tears over the departure of someone who they came to know as more than a doctor but also as a friend, sister, daughter and confidante.

Fiona first came to Whaingaroa before doing a locum in Kawhia in 2001 and fell in love with the place, the following year she was back with her family and joined the practice alongside doctors Damian Tomic, Karen Bennatar and Ian Marcus.

By 2004 she had bought the practice off Ian, and Damian and Karen who also departed that year leaving her as the only long-term doctor plus a few key locums, including Bob Lequesne, until Rebekah Doran joined as a partner in 2006.
When she bought the practice there were 3500 patients and there are now over 5000.
“Our team is much bigger and we are in the fortunate position of having a lot of young doctors who have joined us and who are wanting to stay working in Raglan within our community.”

Fiona says it’s always the people who make leaving the hardest and she has forged many strong friendships in her doctoring journey in Whaingaroa.

Humbled by the turnout, the kind words and the amazing gifts, she thought her farewell would just be a cuppa and scones with patients, friends and colleagues.
“I’ll miss the people I work with and the people who have been my patients. They’re not just your patients they’re your friend and teacher.”

Fiona was presented with a korowai, a painting by artist Robert Currie – also a patient, and an Aaron Kereopa surfboard carving by colleagues at West Coast Health.

Her new role includes expanding her current work with the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network to ensure rural people always have access to excellent healthcare.

Equitable health outcomes for all is part of the solution she is seeking and she is grateful to the Whaingaroa women’s wellness group who have given her some insights into how that might happen.

Fiona says she leaves the West Coast Health knowing it is in good hands under the guidance of practice partner and GP Mike Loten, manager Michelle Meenagh and lead nurse Tracey Frew.

Janine Jackson