Health Centre marks 40th anniversary

BALLYMONEY Health Centre marked 40 years of treating the illnesses and ailments of local people last week.

Wednesday, 27th January 2010, 11:10 am

A number of those who worked at the centre from its inception four decades ago gathered to mark the occasion.

Prior to the building of the Health Centre there were two general medical practices in Ballymoney with all the G.P.s practising from their own homes.

Both practices operated out of the then state-of-the-art centre, though both remained separate entities despite sharing the facilities and patient responsibilities.

Practice one was operated by doctors Noel and Molly Sanderson who retired in 1975 and were succeeded by Dr Robert Barr.

The other practice consisted of Dr Bill Belford, Dr Joe Burns and Dr Billy McCartney.

Dr John Johnston joined that practice in September 1970 and Dr Belford retired in April the following year.

The decision to build a health centre in Ballymoney was made in 1966 and a steering sub-committee from the Robinson Board of Trustees was established.

Dr Burns was chairman along with committee members Dr Belford, Dr McCartney and Dr Sanderson.

Also on the committee was Miss Alice Wilson - the then matron of the Robinson Hospital - and finally but not least Mr Bertie Thompson who was the local Hospital Group Secretary.

The first sod was cut in April 1968 by Mr RA McElderry who was Chairman of the Robinson Board of Trustees.

The centre was built from Robinson Hospital endowments and from a loan from the endowments.

The GPs and the other local authority disciplines - chiropody, speech therapy, etc - then paid rent which eventually paid back the original local to the endowment fund.

The arrangement continues to this day.

The total cost of building was 98,985 and the work carried out by H Taggart and Sons - the same firm who build the original Robinson Hospital in 1932.

The Lecture Hall was a gift from the Free Funds by the north Antrim Hospital management committee allowed all disciplines to meet together, allowed a function room for post-graduate education and also allowed multiple Community Volunteer Groups to meet at night - e.g. St John Ambulance, Crossroads Care, Transplant groups MS Society, etc.

The official opening was performed by Lord Grey of Naunton who was the then Governor of Northern Ireland.

The departments housed in the centre in 1970 included a treatment room, antenatal and postnatal cervical smear, relaxation, asthma, family planning, catholic marriage advisory, ophthalmic, immunisation, baby, speech therapy, chiropody dental inspection and the post-graduate centre.

The Eli Lilly lecture ran from 1970 to 1989 when the last lecturer was the Church of Ireland Bishop Dr Robin Eames.

There has been additional building over the past 40 years.

There were three full time and two part-time receptionists in 1970.

Of important note is the fact that Mrs Edwina Milliken (nee Wright) is still working in reception after 40 years - now as Health Centre manager.

Mrs Jean Robinson was a district nurse there and Miss Inez McWhirter (now Richmond) was the chiropodist. Nurse Janet Christie (now Chestnutt) and Nurse Mamie Gamble worked in the treatment room.

Dr McCartney remains although retired, as the only remaining GP on duty at that time.

A dental unit was added in 1975, GP surgeries were extended in 1995 as was the reception area and administration rooms in 2004/05.

The car parks have been extended twice.

All this commenced with the vision of the sub-committee established in 1966 under the chairmanship of Dr Burns and always wisely advised by Mr Bertie Thompson. Yet again much of the inspiration lies in the foresight of Mr Samuel Robinson for his provision to build and endow the Robinson Hospital in memory of his parents in 1932.