Doctor ‘caught off guard’ by the honour

Dr. Wesley Jame has been awarded an OAM for his service to community health. Pictures: GARY SISSONS 203557_07

By Mitchell Clarke

A prominent Berwick doctor has been recognised for his remarkable contribution towards community health.

Dr. Wesley Jame admits he was “caught off guard” when he was told he had received an OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia).

“It’s a nice surprise and I’m very proud, but I think the nicest thing is the recognition for the organisations I’ve worked with and the important role they have in the community,” Dr. Jame said.

The Berwick local is the principal practitioner of the 125-year-old Berwick Medical Centre, where he’s worked since 1978.

In that time, Dr. Jame has become a recognisable face in the community and treated three and up to five generations of some families.

He’s built up an impressive resume within the health sector and is widely recognised as a driving force behind the inception of Casey Hospital and St John of God Hospital.

“It was basically a 12-year journey which led to the two hospitals we now see in Berwick,” Dr. Jame said.

“There were a lot of people on Spring Street that thought that wasn’t necessarily appropriate.”

He recognised the south east was a significant growth corridor and knew the existing Berwick Hospital wouldn’t be enough to keep up with demand.

During his 21-year stint on the hospital board, Dr. Jame saw the hospital out of a $1.6 million debt through business management and also witnessed the amalgamation with St John of God healthcare.

But it took a decade of speaking with ministers and lobbying for Casey Hospital, until he was able to watch that project come to fruition in 2006.

“I knew there’d be a lot of growth here and our community knew that was going to happen, but unlike most health developments which tend to happen after the population explodes, this actually happened as the population explosion was occurring,” he said.

Dr. Jame reflected on a “colour bond moment” after visiting a patient in terminal care at Casey Hospital.

“I was standing in the sun at the entrance of Casey Hospital looking over at St John of God, which had just been completed at this stage, and I thought to myself ‘this is actually quite a good achievement’,” he said.

“Having two hospitals functioning side by side in coordination and covering all branches and levels of community at a time where it’s needed was a great feeling.”

He acknowledges that without the two hospitals, it’d be a “pretty disastrous” situation.

But the resume doesn’t end there. Dr. Jame has been passionate in working to improve the welfare of children and families.

In 1981, he joined the board of Melbourne Family Care Organisation where he served as vice-president for three years until the organisation became known as Family Action.

There, he served as president for five years until the organisation amalgamated with two others to form OzChild. He was chair of the amalgamation steering committee and then inaugural president from 1993 until 1995.

He served on the board of South East Palliative Care for 12 years and was chair of the organisation for four years.

He also found time to contribute to the introduction of computers into general practice over a 32 year period. His practice was the first to download pathology and radiology results electronically in Victoria.

But despite his impressive career, Dr. Jame said his beloved wife Lesley, who is also a GP and practice co-owner, deserves much of the credit.

“I’m often running around and doing a lot of other things but she’s always been there to pick up the pieces and managed to keep family life together,” he explained.

The couple, who have three adult children, are currently finding the time to work part time and enjoy life as grandparents.

“At the moment it’s all about seeing the world through a child’s eye,” he laughed.

“I’ve got six grandsons to watch, grow up and play with and of course, they don’t know what their grandfather does.

“I’m looking forward to winding back further and working towards retirement although I don’t see myself fully retiring just yet.”

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