Western Australian GPs awarded top honours


The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has announced the Western Australian winners of its annual Awards program for general practice.

The RACGP Awards celebrate exceptional individuals in Australian general practice for their outstanding achievements and contribution to the health of their community.

The winners of the RACGP’s Western Australian faculty are:

· GP of the Year, Dr Charl Du Plessis

· GP in Training of the Year, Dr Matthew Yeoh

· GP Supervisor of the Year, Dr Rebecca Hunt-Davies

· General practice of the Year, Ellen Health

RACGP President Dr Karen Price congratulated the winners.

“The RACGP Awards are an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the hard work of GPs and their teams in caring for their communities,” she said.

“This year’s winners from Western Australia have truly gone above and beyond for their patients and contributed to the health of their communities, congratulations to you all.”

The RACGP President said it was timely to celebrate Australia’s GPs.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vital role GPs play in every community,” she said.

“In this challenging environment, GPs and their teams have been working tirelessly on the frontline and are playing a leading role in the vaccine rollout – protecting patients and communities across the country.

“This is an opportunity to recognise GPs and their teams for their hard work and say thank you.”

GP of the Year, Dr Charl Du Plessis has devoted his career to enhancing the lives of people in remote communities. A sole GP covering the entire Northern Goldfields, Dr Du Plessis practices in Leonara and Laverton, in remote WA, and runs outreach clinics to Cosmo Newberry, a remote Aboriginal Community. He also works regularly in Meekatharra, in the mid-west region of WA.

Members of the community say the Northern Goldfields only ambulance service, staffed by volunteers, wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Dr Du Plessis. He insists volunteers call him 24 hours, seven days a week for free assistance, including psychological support and debriefing. He does the same for six mine sites in the area, taking calls 24/7 to support their on-site medics or nurses and running up skilling sessions for them at the hospital.

“It is impossible to do all this work myself and I can’t thank my staff and colleagues enough for all their hard work and support to make it happen,” he said.

Dr Du Plessis is truly valued by his patients, who call him a ‘pillar of the community’; they say he always listens, and they walk away feeling comforted, regardless of the problem.

“I am dedicated to Aboriginal health and leave my home for weeks at time to provide care to remote communities,” he said.

“I do my best to communicate in the local language Wangkatha, and like to be very involved in the community, volunteering and running events. When COVID-19 struck, I made the call to stay in the community to make sure everyone was okay and provide mental health support.”

GP in Training of the Year, Dr Matthew Yeoh is a skilled and highly respected registrar at Illawarra Medical Centre, dedicated to a lifelong career in general practice.

Hard-working and enthusiastic about all aspects of general practice, Dr Yeoh said: “I have a particular interest in preventative health, cardiovascular health, diabetes and paediatrics. I am also involved with various programs and initiatives at the practice, including a study to monitor Strep A infection among children.”

Dr Yeoh has helped considerably with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the local community. He assists with the vaccine clinic, and together with recently fellowed GP Dr Devaki Wallooppillai, he audited the dropout rate with a view to counter it with practical solutions.

Friendly and very approachable, Dr Yeoh is popular with patients, who appreciate his excellent listening skills and efforts to go the extra mile to make sure they are okay.

“Even if a patient comes in ‘just for a script’, I think it’s important to check in on their mental wellbeing and enquire if they are remembering to do the basics, like regular exercise, and keeping in touch with loved ones,” he said.

GP Supervisor of the Year, Dr Rebecca Hunt-Davies became a supervisor in 2020 at Mead Medical, a very challenging year for general practice with the unfolding complexities of COVID-19.

She is appreciated for giving GPs in training confidence and strength, and counselling to overcome challenges.

Dr Hunt-Davies goes the extra mile for patients as well and is always looking for ways in which to improve the patient journey and health outcomes.

“As a mum of two young children, juggling home life and part time general practice commitments hasn’t always been easy but I like to think I have become a leader, mentor and role model for a steady stream of registrars at the practice,” she said.

“I enjoy teaching registrars and helping them grow into being independent practitioners. I had a great mentor and supervisor, and I hope that I can provide that for the registrars that come through our practice. I am lucky to be supported by a great team at Mead Medical which makes being a part time GP supervisor possible. I think general practice is an incredibly rewarding role and I hope that I get to help the registrars coming through see how wonderful general practice is.”

General practice of the Year, Ellen Health has blossomed from its roots as a cottage family practice, to a large seven-day week, extended-hours primary GP, occupational and specialist practice.

Partner, Dr Catherine Douglass, said the practice was home to multi-disciplinary team includes many GPs with a special area of interest, nurse practitioners, and specialist dieticians.

“At Ellen Health we view every consultation as an opportunity to consider preventative health strategies,” she said.

“We are lucky to be housed in a spacious art deco building, and we proudly welcome people from all walks of life, culture and gender diversity with multi coloured flags in the entrance. Our team includes GPs dedicated to supporting gay and transgender patients, as well as specialists offering patient-centred support for people with challenging mental health concerns.

“When the emergency department of Fremantle Hospital closed a few years ago, we expanded primary care services to fill the gap, buying equipment and upskilling. And we now manage minor emergencies, can stabilise very sick patients before transfer to hospital, and perform minor surgical procedures on site.”

Ellen Health is highly valued by the local community for its considerable contribution, with a business structure that enables discounts or bulk-billing for the high proportion of patients in need, and charitable foundation. The team is also environmentally conscious and striving to reduce the practice’s carbon footprint through reducing waste, recycling, minimising energy use and installing solar power.

The national RACGP award winners will be announced on 20 November this year at the annual clinical conference, GP21.


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