Dr Mel Howe has retired from the Gladstone Base Hospital, which he says has gone “downhill”.
Dr Mel Howe has retired from the Gladstone Base Hospital, which he says has gone “downhill”. Christopher Chan

Long career comes to close

AFTER 36 years of service, a respected surgeon in Gladstone's medical landscape has hung up his scrubs and stethoscope for the last time.

Dr Mel Howe has assisted patients across the public and private hospital sector for more than three decades and said he was proud of his achievements.

"Working as a surgeon is a rewarding experience. I couldn't have seen myself doing anything else," Dr Howe said.

Last Saturday Gladstone's longest-serving surgeon celebrated his extensive community service at the Grand Hotel, accompanied by close friends, family and political figures.

And while Dr Howe has turned his back on a rewarding medical career in Gladstone, he also left behind a public health system which has undergone severe scrutiny.

With the abolishment of a localised medical board, an over reliance on locum doctors and failing to attract and retain permanent medical professionals to town, the management of the hospital has come into question.

"Gladstone Hospital went downhill when it started being managed out of Rockhampton," he said.

Although Dr Howe said he hadn't worked in the public health sector in a number of years, he did understand the pressures faced by the system.

"The public system is understaffed and that's the biggest problem it has encountered," he said.

Starting his medical career in rural Western Queensland, Dr Howe worked in the UK and at the Royal Brisbane Hospital before landing a job in Gladstone.

"When I first started at the hospital it was super busy. I had to be on call four nights out of five and three weekends out of four," he said.

Dr Howe's roles at the hospital were very broad to begin with, but became more specialised as his career progressed.

In 1988 the medical professional made the switch to private practice, while working part time at the Gladstone Base Hospital.

In 2006 Dr Howe made the switch to the private hospital sector, scoring a job at the Gladstone Mater Hospital in 2006 before retiring from his position this year.

As for solving the doctor shortage in Gladstone, Dr Howe said an abundance of new medical students in Brisbane would be enticed to go bush for a job.

"I don't think I'll see a change to the running of the hospital in my lifetime."


The Career

  • 1976 - General surgeon at Gladstone Base Hospital.
  • 1988 - Private practice and part time at GBH.
  • 2006 - Gladstone Mater Hospital
  • 2012 - Retired from medicine.

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