When a GP moved to Launceston he soon saw the opportunity of converting an old pub into a sleek medical hub.
Dr Jerome Muir Wilson has a strong affinity with the Duke of Wellington pub in Launceston. It’s not because he spent a lot of time there, even though it was located just a 10-minute walk from his work at Launceston General Hospital (LGH). His rapport with this once-derelict building is due to the fact that he’s now the co-owner of the property. But rather than running an old-school pub and bottle shop, Dr Muir Wilson has transformed the building into a contemporary specialty centre called Launceston Health Hub.
To get this rather daunting project up and running in early 2013, Dr Muir Wilson needed a dedicated team. This included his business partner and fellow doctor Gaurav Singh, a close friend since studying medicine together at James Cook University, Queensland. He also needed support from his doctor wife, Jaclyn O’Keefe, as well as financial support from BOQ Specialist.
The plan to build a medical hub
“Gaurav and I had been working as GPs for years, focusing on hospitals and general practices,” explains Dr Muir Wilson, who has worked in emergency departments and clinics across the country. “Jaclyn and I were intent on saving money back then so we could start our own practice.”
Dr Singh recalls that even during their university days, they had inspirational plans. “We were always attracted to running our own practice as it would give us an opportunity to be innovative, as well as being able to manage a business,” says the GP, who’s now based in Brisbane’s Turbot Street Medical Centre.
The building and growth stage
“During the planning stage, we learnt a lot in terms of dealing with architects and project managers,” says Dr Singh. “Originally, our building site came in at about three times our budget, so we went back to the drawing board. We eventually found a project manager who was able to get the development within the budget we had allocated.”
“Initially, we renovated the original bar area and turned that into a pathology laboratory. The bottle shop component became our Launceston Medical Centre,” says Dr Muir Wilson. “There was plenty of old accommodation upstairs that we thought could be developed in the future. However, after six months, we had improved the building to the point where we started running as a specialist centre.”
The practice opened in mid-2014, with both partners working in the centre for the first six months. After that, Dr Singh returned to his Brisbane practices and to check in, returned to Launceston once a month.
“As more doctors joined the centre, he could concentrate on the admin side and all the back-end practice management aspects,” explains Dr Muir Wilson.
Building the business side
Dr Singh’s interest in business management started at university. While obtaining his medical qualifications, he also found time to run his own small business. “I assisted doctors doing health assessments for their patients,” he says. “By dealing with Medicare, the assessment was a win/win situation for the patient, the medical practitioner and the practice. It gave me an interest in the business side of things.”
Wilson’s BOQ banking specialist agrees that the development of the site was quite strategic. “Since the medical hub includes after-hours care, various specialists, a skin cancer clinic and allied health services, it means that some of the pressure has been taken away from the Launceston hospital.”
Working remotely with partners
Dr Muir Wilson agrees, pointing out that the Launceston Health Hub has an 8am to 9pm emergency service Monday to Friday and 9am to 5pm weekends and public holidays. “This takes pressure off emergency services at the Launceston Hospital,” he says.
The medical hub also has an emergency registrar and is planning to extend the hours in the near future.
Distance was never an issue for the two GPs, although they live and work on different sides of the Bass Strait. Dr Muir Wilson and his wife Dr O’Keefe were ready to return to their home state of Tasmania, while Dr Singh prefers Queensland’s warmer weather.
Keeping the friendship and business going
BOQ specialist has found working with both doctors to be very inspirational. The business partners were so committed that their five-year plan was completed within six months. The second stage, which was completed in September last year, involved remodelling the first-floor accommodation into eight specialist rooms and two procedure rooms. The next stage is due to start soon and will include a pharmacy, cafe, some imaging facilities and a larger general practice with 14 consultation rooms.
While Launceston Health Hub has grown rapidly, the doctors are still determined to maintain a work/life balance. Drs Muir Wilson and O’Keefe recently had their first baby, while Dr Singh was recently married. “We have been good friends for a while but we manage to keep the business and our personal friendship separate,” says Dr Muir Wilson. “It’s one of the most important things we’ve learnt and it helps keep everything running smoothly.”
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