Husband and wife doctors Diana Coote and Clem Gordon have been serving the people of Warialda for over 25 years.
Story By Mandy McKeesick
At the local hotel a newcomer to Warialda, in north-western New South Wales, is being regaled with stories of the town and its people. “What about the medical service?” he asks. “Oh, we have fantastic doctors. I would rather wait three months to see Doctor Di than go anywhere else,” a woman offers. “And then there’s Doctor Clem,” a man adds with mirth. “He’ll scrub your wound out with a toothbrush, with no painkiller, slap a bit of honey on it and send you on your way.” The newcomer looks at him with wide-eyed disbelief. “Yeah,” another man drawls, “but you wouldn’t want any other doctors beside you if you were in real trouble.”
Husband and wife team Diana Coote and Clem Gordon are living legends to the people of the Warialda district and for nearly 27 years have served as the town’s only medical practitioners. The pair met at the University of Queensland, graduated in 1978, married in 1981 and had their first child in 1982. They worked across regional Queensland – Townsville, Chinchilla, and Blackwater – and then Clem left the country. “You can’t be a rural practitioner without obstetrics,” he says of his decision to move to England for 12 months for study, leaving Di with four children under four and a full-time job as the medical superintendent at Blackwater Hospital. “Clem leaving really threw me back into acute medicine, while also mothering and breastfeeding,” Di says diplomatically.
With the obstetrics degree completed – and further studies in surgery and radiology – the family moved to Warialda in 1989. Di was the first female doctor in the town and she quickly gained a following with women. Today it is not unusual for her to oversee the pregnancy of a woman she once delivered. “I like rural life and I like the cradle to the grave nature of the work,” she says.
“I like the variety of the work and the combination of hospital and general practice,” Clem says. “It is very important for a person to be properly skilled and trained to work in these places.”
This Story is from Issue #107
Outback Magazine: Jun/July 2016