Recognising 35 years of unwavering medical service from Woori Yallock GP

Dr Andrew Kirwan in the office he has operated out of for over 30 years. Picture: CALLUM LUDWIG

By Callum Ludwig

Woori Yallock residents are likely used to the friendly face of Dr Andrew Kirwan, who has been the GP at Woori Yallock Medical Centre for over 35 years.

Dr Kirwan recently received a Length of Service Award from the Rural Workforce Agency Victoria to recognise the outstanding healthcare he has provided to the community.

Dr Kirwan said it’s an honour to have recognition.

“I’ve just been doing a job and I’ve stuck it out, working in the community has been a privilege really, getting involved with the community was one of the reasons I wanted to move out to a semi-rural area and that’s what I’ve done over 35 years,” he said

“Being recognised is just a nice bonus really, it just means I’m getting older!”

Dr Kirwan moved to Woori Yallock in 1986, having previously worked in Glen Waverley, at St Vincent’s Hospital and the Royal Children’s Hospital as well as receiving obstetric training overseas. He made use of this training, delivering babies until he was 40 before it became too disruptive to be working at the centre before heading off to deliver a child.

Dr Kirwan said a lot has changed since those days.

“Back then we had Yarra Junction hospital working and I also delivered at Warburton and Lilydale but they’ve all closed now and some have turned into nursing homes,” he said.

“I used to admit patients and was the president at Yarra Junction Hospital until it shut in 1990, and nowadays we refer patients down to bigger hospitals, not enough people had private cover back then for it and we couldn’t get specialists to come out.”

Following the closure of the Yarra Junction hospital in 1990, the Warburton hospital was also closed by the turn of the millennium, leaving the Upper Yarra with no hospital of its own, something which still frustrates residents today with pushes to reopen the Warburton hospital in recent years.

Dr Kirwan has been based in the same office at the Woori Yallock Medical Centre for almost 30 years, following a small move across Healesville-Koo Wee Rup Rd in the early 90’s.

Dr Kirwan said he had customers tell him they appreciate the value of an ‘old-fashioned surgery’ and it’s very important for rural communities to have a consistent medical presence.

“Not too many doctors want to move out away from facilities, for communities where they’re more isolated, it’s much more difficult to get access to doctors as easily, even with incentives.”

“There’s still not enough doctors in some communities and it is more difficult, but healthcare is important.”

Winners of the 2022 Victorian Rural Health Awards were announced at the 17th Virtual Gala Awards on Thursday 16 June, with award-winning comedian and rural Victorian Geraldine Hickey the MC for the event.

Dr Kirwan said he has enjoyed his time in Woori Yallock and the relationships he has formed over the years.

“It’s been a privilege to deliver babies and then they come back and have babies of their own, or generations of families coming through, they’ve become friends as well as patients. Some of them have been coming to the end of their time as well and are dying, so it can be quite emotional,” he said.

“I feel a part of the community and like I’ve been fully accepted by the locals, especially with the well-established families who have been here as far back as the 1800s, and to have been able to be involved with the local football club, having played tennis locally and in other community activities.”