Long-serving Kaitaia GP Dr Douglas Mearns will end his general practice career at the Kaitaia Health Centre on Friday May 11.

Dr Mearns said it seemed a lifetime had passed since he, his wife Pam and their young family arrived in Kaitaia.

"It was a leap of faith, looking for a better future for our children in a fairer, open society," he said.

"We were accepted into the Far North with generosity and support. Kaitaia has been our home now for almost 33 years, and it has been my privilege to work within our community, first as a physician/anaesthetist at the hospital and then as a GP for the last 27 years.


"Much has changed in rural New Zealand over this time. Kaitaia has weathered the changes, but they have taken their toll on our already disadvantaged population. In the same vein, medical practice has undergone change after change, with increasing complexity, expectation, computerisation, compliance and demands.

"The time has come for me to step down and move to the next phase of my life. Every person with whom I have had contact over the years has enriched my life. It is my pleasure to have served our community. I will miss you all."

Dr Mearns' retirement is just one of a number of changes that will take place at the practice on May 11. Dr Ian Smit will take a new direction too, reducing his practice there to two days per week, spending the other three days as general practitioner with Whakawhiti Ora Pai at Te Kao.

"Drs Mearns and Smit have been an integral part of health care in Kaitaia. We thank them for their amazing contribution, and wish them both well in their differing journeys," a spokesperson for Te Hiku Hauora, which runs the practice, said.

Drs Kathy Bakke and Pete de Wolfe would continue to provide care at the Kaitaia Health Centre, with Dr Smit supported by long-term locums. Familiar faces, including Bella Stevenson and Jeanette Rupapera, would remain at the clinic in their current roles.

Meanwhile Te Hiku Hauora will celebrate the contributions made by Drs Mearns and Smit with the wider community via an open day at the clinic on May 11, with light refreshments, for anyone who would like to call in to wish them well.