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Clifton Hill Medical Group, Victoria

Early years

It has been difficult to establish the exact time when the property at 248 Queens Parade first became the site of a medical practice. It is known that the medical practitioners who ran a general practice at this address there were:

  • Dr W.A. Bradford c. 1903 - 1918
  • Dr Robert Scott Callander 1919 - 1938
  • Dr Noal Theodore Hannaford Schafer 1938 - 1949
  • Dr John Collier Trinca March 1943 - 31st December 1957
  • Clifton Hill Medical Group commenced 3rd September 1951

According to the Sands and McDougall Directories Dr W.A. Bradford was residing at 266 Queens Parade in 1903 (i.e. from c. 1901, as directory entries are usually about 2 years out of actual date). Other doctors had practised continually at 266 Queens Parade (adjoining the National Bank) since at least 1888 (viz. Dr Willam Henry Stock, Dr T.T. Downie and Dr T. Taylor before Dr W.A. Bradford). It appears that Dr Bradford started practice at 248 about 1901 and this is the date that Dr Schafer gave me when he told me about the stables at the back of the property where Dr Bradford, kept his horses and jinker in which he rode out in top hat down the back lane into McKean Street to visit his patients.

Queen's Parade

Queen's Parade was part of Heidelberg Road, one of the main thoroughfares out of Melbourne, until given its present name in 1887 in honour of Queen Victoria's 50th Jubilee.

  • In 1885, only 5 residences had numbers - ranging from 1 to 5
  • In 1888, the listed numbers and inhabitants were as follows:
    • 240 Horne, John
    • 248 Avery, Joseph
    • 256 Verga, Tho. e. printer
    • 262 Fitts, Misses, Ladies College
    • 264 Blackshaw, Mrs Anna
    • 266 Stock, Dr Wm, Hy
  • In 1891, the listed numbers and inhabitants were as follows:
    • 240 Horne, John, Surgeon
    • 248 Avery, Joseph
    • 256 Verga, Tho. E. printer
    • 262 Fitts, Misses, Ladies College
    • 264 Blackshaw, Mrs Anna
    • 266 Downie, Dr T.T, and Taylor, Dr T.
    • 268 National Bank
  • In 1901 and 1902 Hoseph Avery was still residing at 248 Queens Parade, Dr T.T. Downie, MB CHM Glas, Surgeon was at 262 and Dr W.H. Stock, Physician was at 266.
  • In 1903, Dr W.A. Bradford was at 266
  • In 1910, Dr W.A. Bradford was at 248, Dr T.T. Downie was still at 262 and Dr F. McKenzie, Surgeon was at 266.

Extract from Dr. Schafer letter

Extract from a letter dated 28 January 1946 written by Dr N.T. Hannaford Schafer to a Doctor W... who was apparently a prospective partner:

"Re details of proposed partnership.

  • £2000 for 1/2 share if Practice
  • £3000 for House

It would be quite alright to leave taking the house over for two years, by which time it should be possible to take it over - with money saved from the practice - as a Bank proposition. I have not paid Income Tax on less than £3,500 gross for past five years. During the past five years I have practically worked to capacity.

The house is very comfortable, and in good state of repair, and I paid £3,000 for it eight years ago.

The amount of money one can earn really depends on how hard we are prepared to work; the clientele is here, and it is a matter of not refusing a call, doing weekend duty, etc., a good deal of which I have deliberately declined, principally because of the strain of the seven day week.

My intention is to alternate duties; I have Surgery hours once a day for six days, twice on Monday, none on Saturday evening or Sunday.

All mids are done in hospital; we have a fairly big midwifery list. Operative surgery brings in approximately £800 to £1000 per annum. We get quite a fair wad of cash in Surgery and £1000 plus p.a. for Lodges.....

I can't tell you much more without interviewing you, and I would advise this as soon as possible, as I want to get a partner by Easter time."

There is no record of Dr W accepting the above offer. However, Dr John Russell Robert Taylor (MBBS Melb. 1939) is likely to have become a partner at about this time although he did not take over the house. the Schafer-Taylor partnership was dissolved shortly before I took over the practice in March 1949, so I took over a virtual two-man practice!

Formation of the Clifton Hill Medical Group

One afternoon in April 1951 John Trinca happened to meet Sam Benwell in Queen's Parade outside the Christian Brothers School separating their two general medical practices. During their chat John had a flash of inspiration an dsaid to Sam, "We shouldn't be competing for patients, why don't we amalgamate and form a group." Sam said, "that's not a bad idea, I 'll have a word with Cyrus".

In the following weeks the idea was discussed between the four doctors involved - John Trinca and Gordon Trincia at 248 and Sam Benwell and Cyrus Jones at 262 Queen's Parade. A copy of the minutes recorded of their combined meetings follow:

"In consequences of several discussions on the advantages of the amalgamation of two medical practices, it was decided that a conference should be held between Drs John and Gord Tinca and Drs. C.A Jones and W.S. Benwell.

On 15th May 1951, the first meeting was held at the residence of Dr. John Trinca at 248 Queen's Parade, Clifton Hill.

An agenda was prepared for a meeting in connection with policy affecting the amalgamation of the two practices. On July 4, 1951 a meeting was held at the residence of Dr John Trinca. The minutes of this meeting recorded that those present were Dr John Trinca, Dr. Gordon Trinca, Dr C.A. Jones, Dr S.W. Benwell, Mr D.Davis acting on behalf of Drs. Jones and Benwell, Mr Allan Grant who was appointed arbitrator or chairman. It was decided after a preliminary discussion to amalgamate the practices and provide facilities to the public as a group or clinic. This could only be possible if both parties agreed to certain conditions in regard to the cost of the purchase of the premises situated at 248 Queen's Parade, Clifton Hill, which the vendor, Dr. John Trinca, had received a valuation of £9000 from the firm of W. Henderson Pty. Ltd and that the goodwill of both practices be considered for a period agreed upon by both parties. It was decided between the two parties that if possible:-

  1. amalgamation be made of the two practices and that the four doctors practise as a group
  2. that the goodwill of the practice of Drs Benwell and Jones be taken at a figure certified by their accountant in conjunction with Dr. Trinca's accountant, Mr. Harold Darby, for a period of 12 months from the 1st September, 1949 to 31st August 1950, and the practice of Dr. J. Trinca for a period from the 1st July, 1949 to 30th June 1950, and that whichever figure was greater, the difference to be paid by the other party.
  3. that an independent valuation should be sought by Drs. Benwell and Jones, and such difference in valuation be shared by the party concerned

The second meeting was held between the parties at the home of Dr. John Trinca on Tuesday, 26th June. Those present were Dr. J.C. Trinca, Dr. G.W. Trinca, Dr. C.A. Jones, Dr. W.S. Benwell, Mr. Allan Grant - presiding, Mr Donald Davies - acting on behalf of Drs Benwell and Jones, Mr Harold Darby - acting on behalf of Drs. J.C. and G.W. Trinca. the proceedings of the meeting were as follows:

  1. The two valuations were discussed and although there was a difference, it was decided to purchase the property as a group at the original price sought by Dr. John Trinca, namely £9000
  2. The accountant were asked to expedite the certification of the figures of goodwill of both parties
  3. It was considered advisable to ask the National Bank to grant an overdraft on the deeds of the property, and if possible to increase it by a sum which would be secured as goodwill, Mr. Davies and the four doctors decided to seek an appointment with Mr. Gregory, manager of the National Bank, Clifton Hill, as soon as possible
  4. The medical equipment and furniture of the respective practices was to be valued by a nominee of Mr. Allan Grant
  5. It was decided that the practice should be known under a group title.

There having been discussions between the four doctors in connection with policy affecting the amalgamation a third meeting was held on Wednesday, 4th July at the residence of Dr. John Trinca. those present were the four doctors and Mr. Donald Davis. The matters discussed were as follows:

  1. Overdraft ways and means after discussions with Bank Manager. Each doctor to see the Bank Manager separately.
  2. Staff - appointment and Requirements. it is proposed that the nursing staff shall comprise:
    • 1 Trained Sister in residence
    • 1 Domestic in residence
    • 2 Semi-trained staff in attendance for day hours only.
  3. If the present staffs of the respective practices do not correspond to this when combined, then the ultimate proposed staff will remain in abeyance until it can be organised.
  4. Absence overseas or otherwise of members of the group, and
    1. Policy of group
    2. Locum expenses Scheme 1. That the group pays all locum expenses during the absence of member and absenting party continues to draw quarter share. Scheme 2. That the absent member receives a reduced percentage (less than a quarter - sum to be arrived at) and the practice provide locum expenses up to a certain sum, e.g., £1000-£1250. Any locum expenses beyond that figure to be paid by the absent member. The period in which the member is absent must not exceed 12 months in either Scheme 1 or 2. Any remuneration that the absent member receives in a professional manner is to be returned to the practice, including exchange. This also applies to both Schemes. Dr. Gordon Trinca seeking legal advice.
  5. Repairs
  6. Structural Alterations
  7. Finance
  8. Legal aspect The final draft of the partnership agreement was to be given to a firm of solicitors nominated by Mr. Allan Grant, and each partner in turn to refer to their own solicitor.
  9. Preliminary purchases
  10. Property to be defined Dr Gordon Trinca seeking legal advice
  11. Admission to partnership of other doctors

It was thought that a clause should be inserted into the partnership agreement as to the terms of admitting additional partners or in the event of a withdrawal of any one of the four original partners, and that the four original partners should be the sole vendor of the property.

The Clifton Hill Medical group commenced at 248 Queen's Parade on 3rd September 1951. Dr R.L. Sleeman, who had intended to join the Benwell-Jones practice to enable the original partners to undertake a successive year's study overseas, became an additional member of the Group towards the end of 1951. It was then decided that each of the five members of the Group would be granted 12 month's leave in rotation and would receive his 1/5th share of the takings each month during his absence. The partnership adopted the following yearly leave of absence:

  • 1952 - Dr. W.S. Benwell
  • 1953 - Dr. C.A. Jones
  • 1954 - Dr. J.C. Trinca
  • 1955 - Dr. G.W. Trinca
  • 1956 - Dr. R.L.Sleeman
  • 1957 - Dr. W.S.Benwell

Dr. John Trinca left the group at the end of 1957 to take up an appointment within the Consultant Division at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. He was replaced by Dr. Richard Clinton Gutch.

Doctor Richard Clinton Gutch recollection from the time he started with the group 1957

My wife and I were in England when we got a cable to say my father had died. We decided to come back to Australia as it was too difficult to run my father's business so far away in England, which was a little disappointing, as I was doing my fellowship at the Royal College of Surgeons.

Returning to Melbourne, we had gone to a party in South Yarra and met a lot of interesting people there and as always, if there's a couple of doctors at a gathering it's inevitable that they will find each other. That is how I met Sam Bedwell. He was a practitioner at Clifton Hill Medical Clinc and he asked what I was going to do. I told him I was looking for a job because I can't afford to go back to England. We had a chat and he said we are looking for someone to fill the spot of John Trinca. He was one of the partners and was moving on to take up an appointment at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Dr Bedwell asked if I would be interested in joining them, so we made an appointment time for me to go out and meet the other Doctors. The partners consisted of Gordon Trinca [surgeon] Cyrus Jones [obstetrician/gynaecologist] and Peter Sleeman [medical]. I found it to be an interesting practice and I thought to myself, yes, I would like to work here. After a long meeting with the partners, I was invited to join the practice. I was very pleased to except the offer and me doing this made it possible for John Trinca to take up his position at the Serum Laboratory. I became a partner at Clifton Hill Medical Clinic in 1957. I shared a room with Gordon Trinca- we were able to do that as we worked opposite schedules. I found I fitted in well with the other chaps as I really loved working there. We realised we were getting a lot of trauma cases as there was a large cannery [national can makers], a large paper mill, also shoe factories just to name a few of the industries in the area. We had always responded to the workers comp injuries because of the presence of Gordon Trinca how had his fellowship in surgery [he actually wrote a paper on hand injuries it was published in the AMJ]. We had a fully established theatre, theatre sister, we did all our X-Rays, and had anaesthetic facilities. It was completely equipped. Gordon or I scheduled ourselves so one or the other would be there if we were needed. We also managed to get a theatre fee with the insurance companies as they came and a had a look and decided if someoen needed to come into theatre they would pay us a theatre fee and that went very well. Factory bosses preferred to send their injured workers to us because they knew if they went to the hospital, they would be sitting around almost all day, but attending the clinic they were treated straight away, so less time lost and this the bosses liked.

The clinic continued to service the area and continued to be a very good business. In 1962 I went on my sabbatical leave when one of my partners contacted me and said that Cyrus Jones and Gordon Trinca were leaving the practic, when I get back from my leave. They had hospital appointment at the newly built P.A.N.C.H. hospital but it appeared that they were having difficulty selling their shares. Not only did they have 1/5th share of the medical practice but they had 1/5th share of the real estate and that made the price of the practice pretty expensive, so there was something of a stalemate. I thought about it and realised that one of us had to buy the real estate and then lease it back to the practice. I explained to the partners I thought this was the only thing we could do. They didn't seem too keen on doing anything about it, so I put it to them that I would buy their shares and lease it back to the practice, as a tenant.

They thought about it and we had a meeting a week later and all agreed that they would sell their real estate to me. We agreed on a price and as I had no money I had to go to the bank and borrow the money to pay the partners out. In those days banks were happy to lend money to Doctors, so with the banks help I became the new owner of the real estate at 248 Queens Parade. That freed up the transfer of the shares and Gordon and Cyrus were able to take up their appointments at P.A.N.C.H Hospital. After Gordon left, I continued with the trauma. I found it very interesting and stimulating of course. In those days, if a finger was badly mutilated, it would be amputated, but these days with micro surgery and vascular surgery a lot of those fingers are saved.

Doctor George Shaw joined us in 1962 and in 1968 Doctor Maree Milechi [G.P] joined the practice. Five years later in 1973, Mr Ian Nicol [surgeon] joined the team.

Late 1970 early 1980 the needs of the clinc were changing, a lot of our patients were drug users who were on the methadone program, the clinic was also experiencing a lot of break-ins which of course were drug related. We had an extremely bad experience, when arriving at work one morning to find our safe had been wired with explosives and had not gone off. It was still live - we were all evacuated immediately and not able to return until the police had disarmed it.

In 1983 I resigned from clinical work as I had gotten to the stage I felt I didn't want to do clinical work, mainly because I wasn't prepared to work hard enough to pay indemnity insurance. The trauma centre closed down at that time as the other partners didn't seem interested in keeping it going. Also most of the industrial factories had closed down and moved overseas.

Doctor Lora Gurney and Doctor Joanna Hickey bought my practice from me and for the next few years I maintained an interest in the clinic, as the landlord only. In 2003 I decided to sell the real estate but I didn't want to put it on the market, for a developer to buy it and bulldoze it down, and another beautiful old building would be lost forever. I was hoping it would stay a clinic for another hundred years. I asked Doctor Lora Gurney and Doctor Joanna Hickey if they were interested in purchasing the real estate and to my delight they Doctors said yes.

The two Doctors have renovated and maintained the century old building even going to the extremes of renovating the old stables out the back into consulting rooms for psychiatrists/psychologist/pathology. Hopefully the building will survive another hundred years with young enthusiastic Doctors working there. I wish them well

Doctor Richard Clinton Gutch

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