By MARTIN JOHNSTON
Dr John Mercer, a pioneer of the dedicated heart-treatment unit at Green Lane Hospital in Auckland, combined the skills of the specialist and the all-rounder.
And not only in his work. During more than 30 years at Green Lane and Auckland Hospitals, he is said to have displayed impressive skills in acting and singing in hospital shows, was a star performer in hospital cricket, and brought a goodhumoured and personal touch to the wards and committee rooms.
Dr Mercer, a 66-year-old coronary-care specialist and general physician, retired last year from his joint appointment at Green Lane and Auckland Hospitals but kept working as a locum at Auckland until several months ago.
He trained in general medicine at London's Hammersmith Hospital before joining the first coronary-care unit to be established in England. Returning to New Zealand in 1969, he helped set up the coronary-care unit at Green Lane to provide intensive monitoring of heart patients. Previously they were cared for on general wards.
Former colleagues recall John Mercer's selfless service, energy and wisdom, and the numerous battles he fought with hospital authorities to maintain and improve services for heart patients. Usually with good humour.
When meetings were getting nowhere, says a colleague, Professor Wilhelm Lubbe, research cardiologist and general physician, "John would often come out with a humorous statement. He would follow it up with jests that brought the house down."
In verbal combat with colleagues, "everybody knew he had his tongue in his cheek and was playing the fool."
Professor Lubbe has encountered hundreds of patients who don't say they went to Green Lane. "They say, 'We were at Green Lane and Dr Mercer looked after us.' They have never forgotten him. Most people fairly quickly tend to forget who looked after them."
It was a measure of his personal interest in patients that he was endeared to them. He was also a favourite with medical students for his patience and willingness to give them more time than busy specialists often do.
Dr Mercer died of a heart attack at his Remuera home. He is survived by his wife, four children and three grandchildren.By Martin Johnston Email Martin