Ngunguru Medical Centre is proof that good service goes a long way.

The centre was recently named the rural practice of the year at the Rural Health Conference in Wellington.

Dr Martin Esser said the centre was nominated by a patient who had a positive experience. He said they were very surprised but very happy to receive the award.

"Everyone experiences positive feedback from patients but it's not often you get officially rewarded. It made everyone very proud, the nurses in particular were over the moon."


Dr Esser said the nurses often went the extra mile, keeping children occupied, helping patients with advice and being flexible so patients' needs could be accommodated.

All the staff at the practice are part-time employees. There are two main doctors, and a third who runs a female clinic once a week, three nurses and three receptionists.

He said a rural practice has some challenges.

"From a medical point of view it is sometimes more challenging. The ambulance is further away, it can be very stressful until emergency services arrive."

Dr Esser, originally from Germany, started at Ngunguru Medical Centre as a locum in 1998. He took over the practice with fellow doctor Zaw Win, in 2000. Dr Win is originally from Myanmar and the pair first worked together at Whangarei Hospital.

They had to become familiar with the workings of the small community as they went. The other adjustment was to "suddenly being 'the one' with no immediate person one could turn to". However, he said working in small community was rewarding.

"It's a lovely community to work for, we have received over the years plenty of support."

He said some patients have moved into town and still commute out to their clinic.

Dr Esser said the types of ailments patients presented with did not differ vastly from a town practice. But, he said, they had a large number of farmers, some of them with extremely stoic attitudes.

No one was able to attend the ceremony in Wellington but Dr Esser said they are planning a celebration in the near future. The award is sponsored by the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa, the NZ Rural General Practice Network and New Zealand Doctor.