Doctors who listen and care are worth their weight in gold, according to Dame Tariana Turia.

The fromer Te Tai Hauāuru MP recently lost her beloved husband George and, ahead of World Family Doctor Day on May 19, talked about what a difference GPs can make.

George Turia, who was fit and healthy most of his life, suffered a major heart attack in September 2015. Arriving at the hospital in the middle of the night, anxious and scared, his wife was shocked at the no-nonsense, blunt conversation she had with the first clinician who spoke with her and her family.

Thankfully, rural hospital medicine specialist Dr Tom Dawson was also working at ICU that night, and he provided a much more empathic approach.

Dr Tom Dawson was at Whanganui Hospital when George Turia had a heart attack in 2015. Photo / supplied
Dr Tom Dawson was at Whanganui Hospital when George Turia had a heart attack in 2015. Photo / supplied

He was lovely and comforting, Dame Tariana, who is a to Honorary Fellow of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, said.

"He gave us some options for George's care, but he encouraged us to make decisions that worked for us, as a family. He was reassuring and he helped empower us to decide what was best. I can't thank him enough for helping us. It was a terribly traumatic time, and having someone who listened to us was invaluable."

Dawson is not Dame Tariana's usual doctor, but she is grateful he was there that night when they needed support.

"My usual GP is Dr Satya Prakash and he's also wonderful. He's taken good care of us since we moved back to Whanganui 10 years ago, but I have to say he has been absolutely worth his weight in gold since George became ill."

Prakash was "in our corner all the way", Dame Tariana said.

"He would call the hospital if there was something in George's care plan that he didn't agree with, and he kept a close eye on his progress."

Because he knew the family, he could tell when things were out of the ordinary.

When George Turia was hesitant to go back to hospital, Prakash was able to soothe him and explain what was going to happen. When Dame Tariana was concerned about his medications, Prakash took her concerns on board and they monitored the situation and made adjustments where they could.


"George passed away two weeks ago. I'm terribly sad to lose him, but I'm grateful that we had a great life together and that he didn't linger too long when he was ill," Dame Tariana said.

Prakash has since called on the family to bring flowers and a basket of goodies for the grandchildren.

"He's just so thoughtful," Dame Tariana said.