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Rural man...Bill Taine enjoyed working in smaller centres. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

Timaru orthopaedic surgeon Bill Taine has been accorded a rare honour by his colleagues.

Last week in Queenstown he received the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ rural health award.

Dr Taine, who is a fellow of the college and now retired in Timaru, said he was surprised by the award but believed it was not just recognition of his work, but also that of others with whom he worked.

“This is a reflection of everyone I worked with in Timaru – other surgeons, nurses and health staff.

“You’re part of a team and to say the surgeon is at the top is rubbish. You’re very much part of a team.

“This award says a lot about Timaru and the local hospital.”

The rural health award recognises rural surgeons in Australia and New Zealand who have made a significant and enduring impact on their community through the development of a high standard of surgery, education and training.

Dr Taine grew up in Auckland and Hawke’s Bay, where his father was an orthopaedic surgeon.

He graduated from University of Otago Medical School in 1977 then completed an orthopaedic training programme.

He worked in smaller centres in New Zealand and the United Kingdom before coming to Timaru Public Hospital in 1986.

“It was always my intention to settle in a smaller community rather than in metropolitan areas.

“The attraction of provincial areas is that the work is very general – you don’t specialise.

“It’s more interesting and much more hands-on. In the bigger centres there are more layers.”

Dr Taine was instrumental in preparing Bidwill Trust Hospital to handle major cases.

During his time with the South Canterbury District Health Board (SCDHB), numerous house officers worked under him and developed a love for orthopaedics, some of them going on to become orthopaedic consultants themselves.

“It was very fulfilling being in a job doing things for people and working with a lot of very good people over the years.”

In 2008 Dr Taine took a break from full-time clinical practice and started to work part-time for ACC as a medical officer.

“As good people appeared, I stepped down to medical advisory roles.”

As his work with ACC increased he gave up his public hospital commitment and became chief medical officer for the SCDHB’s area. After two and a-half years he retired from this role to work fulltime for ACC.

He also represented small centres on the New Zealand Orthopaedic Association.

Since retiring in 2015, Dr Taine has become involved in community activities. He is a volunteer for South Canterbury Hospice and president of Run Timaru.