After 44 years of practising in Whanganui, doctor Alan Mangan has seen huge change in general medical practice.
The GP, and founding partner of Aramoho Health Centre, retired on Thursday.
Some patients he’s been seeing since they were 1-year-old.
“It’s a massive privilege to have been involved in their lives till now, their schooling, their marriage, their work, when you think about it and reflect on that it humbles you,” Mangan said.
He began working as a GP in Whanganui in 1979.
Until six years ago when he switched to part-time hours, that meant seeing 20-25 patients daily five days a week. Alongside this, as an obstetrician, Mangan also delivered around 100 babies per year.
“I’ve been involved in looking after some of the poorest and probably some of the wealthiest people in Whanganui, but you try and treat them all the same.”
General practice has undergone a period of immense change during Mangan’s time as a doctor — especially in the last 10 years.
A shortage of doctors has impacted Whanganui as well as the rest of the country, particularly in rural areas such as Rangitīkei and Ruapehu. Patients have been facing waiting times of two to three weeks for appointments.
The ageing population means GPs are seeing older people with increasingly complex health conditions, and there is a higher prevalence of neurological issues such as dementia and different types of cancer.
“We also have a lot more access to sophisticated drugs and medications to treat these conditions and keep people healthier for longer.”
Patients have lengthier requests when visiting GPs, and there is less tolerance for ill health.
“Some patients are extremely demanding and have an insatiable desire to be fixed, and unrealistic expectations for what you can do for them.”
Mangan has observed that GPs now can sometimes take on the role that a church minister may have filled 40 years ago. Someone who is able to have a heart-to-heart about difficulties in a person’s life.
“The GP is very often the first person that someone will go to,” he said.
“People come in with a minor medical problem but underlying that there is a major issue around their interaction in their home, or family or kids.”
The most important thing for the future of the health system was that the medical profession across the board remain patient-centred, he said.
In 2008 Mangan received the Queen’s Service Medal for services to medicine and health administration.
Mangan is planning on remaining in Whanganui for his retirement.
He is grateful for the incredible support of his wife Susan throughout his career, who he’s been married to for 50 years — they began dating when they were 15 — and have three sons together.
Eva de Jong is a reporter for the Whanganui Chronicle covering health stories and general news. She began as a reporter in 2023.