After 36 years’ service to the Caboolture community, Dr Bernard Gerber will see his last patients on Christmas Eve before retiring.
It will be the end of an era with the Morayfield Rd premises to be sold.
“I still enjoy the job and I think I’m pretty good at it,” Dr Gerber said, “but I always said I’d retire at 65 and I’m very comfortable with the decision.
“There will be no party on December 24. The final afternoon will be doing payslips and long-service leave payments to staff.”
Dr Gerber will, however, continue working for 70 nursing home patients and surgical assisting, but his plan in retirement is to travel. “Maybe in Australia to start with,” he said.
Retirement will end four decades of long working days, weeks and years, which started in 1981 when Dr Gerber became an intern at Redcliffe Hospital.
When his practice partner left in 2002, Dr Gerber had “two doctors’ worth of patients and only one doctor”. He went 10 years without a holiday and worked weekdays and Saturday mornings for nine years.
Saturdays stopped in 2011, but Dr Gerber still does 65-70 hours a week and has full days of appointments, from 8am-6pm, with no built-in breaks.
He also works at Bolton Clarke aged care home and is Chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee at Caboolture Private Hospital.
It is a far cry from his first day as a Caboolture GP. On June 11, 1985, Dr Gerber “walked into an influenza epidemic” and saw 25 patients “straight up”.
At that time The Milky Way Café was a big attraction on Morayfield Rd close to the surgery. A car wash is now on that site and much has changed at the practice.
“We don’t do anything like the trauma we used to,” Dr Gerber said, “the fractures and lacerations, go to Caboolture Hospital or the (Health) Hub (Morayfield).
“But we deal with a lot more diabetes. When first came maybe there were two or three diabetes patients. Now I have hundreds. A lot of diet Type 2 diabetes … being overweight.
“You just have to move with all the changes. There are new tests and new diseases.”
The biggest change has been from paper to digital records. Dr Gerber’s surgery still has racks of empty manila folders behind reception as a reminder of the past.
There are also giant lead screens folded against a wall where the surgery used to do X-rays, but Dr Gerber always had a computer from the day he started in Caboolture.
“The first one had 64KB of active memory and another 64KB as a memory bank,” he said, “cost nearly $2000 in 1985 and was top-of-the-range.”
More computers today work with 500GB of space!
Dr Gerber was born in Ipswich and went to school at Injune, Maryborough and Emerald – though they lived at Blackwater - as his father moved with work as a coal miner.
A career in teaching was Dr Gerber’s original plan, until a vocational guidance officer in Emerald looked at his school results.
“He said ‘you haven’t really thought about this, have you? You could do medicine,” recalled Dr Gerber, “I thought okay. My mother was devastated, she wanted me to become a science teacher.”
Dr Gerber studied for six years (1974-80) at the University of Queensland and left not wanting to do another exam again.
In 1981 he became an intern at Redcliffe Hospital and left in June 1985, as Principal House Officer General Surgery, Anaesthetics, to start his career as a GP on Morayfield Rd, Caboolture.