North Coast Radiology - A 37 Year History
The origins of North Coast Radiology can be traced back to 1974 when Dr William (Bill) Turnbull decided to return to his home town and establish his radiology career here in Lismore, in Northern New South Wales. He originally joined the local established practice of Drs Bell and Mutton, but generational differences and practice philosophy soon saw him in practice on his own.
He was fortunate in many ways, not only being locally bred, but his father was also the Chief Radiographer at Lismore Base Hospital. There was also, at this time, an influx of younger doctors, some of whom Bill knew from his training days. His first radiographer was Peter Ogg, then fresh from radiography school, and who is still with the practice today. The practice opened on 1 July 1974. Maureen Stephenson was the first receptionist; she later became a radiographer. Bill’s mother also worked at the practice carrying out reception duties. The practice was situated upstairs on the corner of Molesworth and Magellan Streets, then AGR’s building, now known as Nesbitt House.
In 1975, Dr Peter Meyer joined Bill. The practice grew and new equipment was purchased. Bill always believed that you bought the best and latest you could afford, and this philosophy has stayed with the practice ever since.
1978 saw the first branch established at Casino, in Canterbury Street, at the request of several doctors in the town, in particular Dr Castagna, still practising in Casino, and the late Dr Adrian Boyd.
1979 was marked by the arrival of Dr Warwick Herbert fresh from two years radiology in London, and a background in Diagnostic Ultrasound - then a relatively new discipline. The practice had a new modality.
The major turning point for the practice came on 31 January 1980 when the AGR’s building burned to the ground; the practice was completely destroyed. The three radiologists and several staff held a meeting later that night, and decided they would start again. However, Bill decided he would move on. He subsequently bought a practice in Inverell, so he could pursue his passion for stud beef cattle.
To the great credit of all concerned - staff, engineers, equipment suppliers, tradespeople and the Lismore community - a new facility was operating only ten days after the fire.
The old name of the practice was changed to Killclare Radiology, to reflect our new address at 16 Keen Street, Lismore. Later, as the practice opened other branches at other sites, the name was changed to North Coast Radiology.
The original Lismore radiology practice was still operating in Conway Street, although Drs Bell and Mutton had moved on. Dr Ray Lun purchased the practice in 1982; Ray was a former colleague of Drs Meyer and Herbert, and the two practices merged in 1983.
Dr Mutton had established a practice in Ballina when he left Lismore, but was now interested in retiring. His practice, which was upstairs on the corner of Grant and River Streets, was purchased, but the location was unsuitable. It was relocated across the road to the corner of Grant Street and Winton Lane in 1983, and was a very successful location for the next 15 years.
Dr Roger Head joined the practice in 1984 before selling his share to Dr Ian Cappe in 1986. In the same year the practice purchased its first CT scanner. The purchase price was just under a million dollars at 17% pa interest - a major commitment. A dedicated location was rented in Orion Street, and Lismore had its first CT service.
The Byron Bay branch was established in 1985, originally in the Bay Centre Arcade in Lawson Street. In 1991 the rooms relocated to a house on the corner of Jonson and Carlyle Streets. This location provided room to undertake ultrasound and fluoroscopic screening. This was a successful location for 18 years, however, the difficulties associated with central Byron Bay such as parking and access forced a relocation to West Byron in 2009.
In 1990 St Vincent’s Private Hospital commenced the construction of a new private wing. This gave NCR the opportunity to expand into a hospital environment. So after extensive negotiation a substantial area on the ground floor was rented, and a comprehensive practice was now available due to the relocating of the CT scanner. Our Magnetic Resonance scanner was installed there in 2001, and when an adjacent Medical Centre was built an angiogram suite was also established in 2002.
In 1992 Dr Joanna Sommerfeld and Dr Sam Chan joined the partnership.
In 1993 we were fortunate to attract a radiologist with a qualification in Nuclear Medicine, Dr Warren Lun. We set up our Nuclear Medicine department in the old CT rooms in Orion Street, and soon required a second gamma camera.
In 1994 we were approached by the solo Grafton radiologist, Dr Karunanithy, was seeking a partner. We agreed to establish a joint practice separate from North Coast Radiology, and so Clarence Valley Imaging was formed. New rooms were built in Grafton and rooms at Maclean soon followed.
1995 saw Dr Karunanithy sell his share due to ill health. North Coast Radiology and Clarence Valley Imaging were now effectively the same operation, although they have always maintained their separate identities.
Dr John Mulholland joined the practice in 1996.
New radiology rooms with facilities for CT and Nuclear Medicine opened in Tamar Street, Ballina in 1998.
Dr Nick Repin joined partnership in 1999. During this year NCR opened the Vascular Lab at St Vincent’s Private Hospital, in conjunction with Dr John Graham.
Dr Craig Dyer joined the partnership in 2001, and during this year a new MRI machine was installed at St Vincent’s.
The year also saw the establishment of rooms at Tenterfield for the provision of ultrasound services. This presence in the town was initially a response to the local medical fraternity who were keen to establish a local imaging service when none was available.
An Angiography and Interventional Radiology suite opened at St Vincent’s in 2002, and rooms were opened in Mullumbimby that same year.
Dr Andrew Hooper joined the partnership in 2003.
In 2005 Dr Lincoln Gillam joined the partnership, and two Sydney based practices at Ryde and Chatswood were purchased. Dr Dyer relocated from Lismore to Sydney to take charge of the Sydney venture. During the same year Dr Sam Chan retired due to ill health, and passed away in December 2005.
In 2007 Dr Rohit Singh joins the partnership, and major renovations at the St Vincent’s rooms are undertaken.
The year of 2009 saw a new comprehensive practice established in Spring Street, Chatswood, and the retirement of Dr Peter Meyer.
2010 saw the Byron Bay rooms relocated to West Byron, and the Mullumbimby rooms close due to Medicare restrictions. The Angiogram Interventional suite at St Vincent’s was also decommissioned during this year.
2011 has seen Dr Willie Tsung join the practice, and the Tenterfield rooms have relocated from their site at Tenterfield Hospital to larger premises more centrally located in the town.
This history was provided by Dr Warwick Herbert.