Elite surgeon wanting to take on more at Goulburn Valley Health
Published at: 24 May 2019
Paediatric surgeon Tom Clarnette has worked on some of Australia’s most high-profile cases at the Royal Children’s Hospital, and while he enjoys the extremely complex surgeries that come with working at a large metropolitan hospital, he is just as engaged with the work he does at Goulburn Valley Health.
Dr Clarnette’s work at GV Health started a decade ago as a travelling consult, one day a month at GV Health where he began working as a locum doctor.
“My mentor used to do it; he was a very prominent figure in Melbourne and when he retired he wanted me to come up,” he said.
It did not take Dr Clarnette long to figure out he would continue to make the journey to Shepparton each month to treat child patients at GV Health.
“I enjoyed getting out of Melbourne,” he said.
“I enjoy the staff (at GV Health); there’s a nice atmosphere.”
Dr Clarnette is no stranger to working in a close team – making up one of the crucial surgeons in the medical crew tasked with the separation of conjoined twins Nima and Dawa last year.
The then 18-month-old twins from Bhutan attracted national media coverage when the family’s doctor Dr Karma Sherub brought the twin’s condition to the attention of Australian medical circles.
According to a report by the Sydney Morning Herald, the surgeon had contacts in Melbourne having spent time in the city as the winner of a medical scholarship in 2016, and he contacted them when the twins were a few months old, setting in motion the chain of events that would lead them to Australia.
Dr Clarnette was an integral part of the 18-strong medical team tasked with their separation comprising of surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses and more - headed up by RCH head of paediatric surgery Joe Crameri.
“I was a pretty big part of that; their only internal join was the liver,” Dr Clarnette said.
With a sub-speciality in liver surgery, Dr Clarnette performed a crucial part of the girls’ separation which successfully took place at the Royal Children’s Hospital last year.
The surgery was performed in two stints with Dr Clarnette tasked with making the call before the second stage of reconstructive surgery could take place following the separation.
While the operating theatre was at full capacity, the surgery was live-streamed into the RCH’s media room so staff could watch remotely, in an effort to train other surgeons.
This is something Dr Clarnette says is hugely important to him – the training of student doctors – which he undertakes in his capacity with GV Health, delivering lectures to medical students.
For Dr Clarnette, and for the health profession in general, paediatrics is a field where the doctor must be experienced.
Which is why Dr Clarnette said the locum-doctor-model at GV Health works so well.
“I think it’s a good model,” he said.
He explained there was often not enough work to justify a full-time local paediatric surgeon.
“To be a good doctor you need to see lots and lots of patients,” he said and added the locum model ensured highly skilled doctors consulted with regional child patients.
He said the service also enabled regional parents to get the health care their children needed close to home, and with Dr Clarnette keen to take on more patients in the Goulburn Valley the region’s young people are in excellent hands.
“It saves parents travel time,” he said.
“I only do relatively minor surgery at GV Health; anything more major I’ll do in Melbourne.”
Dr Clarnette attends GV Health every four weeks on Thursdays and will next visit the hospital on June 13.