Published Manly Daily 2018
“Tax agent Annette McGough isn’t sick, but she goes to her GP surgery at least once a week, if not twice.
Sometimes she might even pop in for a cup of tea.
That’s because she is a guinea pig, along with 450 other northern beaches patients, who have signed up to a revolutionary new doctor’s surgery, Osana Narrabeen, where doctors get paid bonuses for keeping people well.
Here patients can go on group trips to the supermarket to learn healthy shopping habits, attend free weekly cookery lessons with in-house dietician Lisa Mesiti, enjoy beach walks and even go to meditation classes.
Ms McGough, 47, of Avalon, can’t praise it enough — it’s changed her life.
In four months she has lost 30 kilos.
She is still on her journey and has another 40 kilos to shed, but said she feels like a different person. For an annual membership fee of $150 she can see her GP for as long as she wants, as frequently as she wants.
She also gets free access to in-house specialists including a psychologist and physiotherapist.
Ms McGough even has her own health assistant, whose job it is to arrange all her health appointments both at the clinic and elsewhere if needed.
Her first consultation with Dr Caroline Rogers was an hour and a half long.
During that appointment Dr Rogers suspected Ms McGough might be suffering from sleep apnoea, a serious disorder where people stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times.
She was right. After years of going to GPs and feeling frustrated because they only asked her, ‘What do you need?’, she said it was amazing to have a GP who was keen to listen to her.
“It took a caring doctor to drill deeper and find out why I had a weight problem,” Ms McGough said.
“It’s been a long battle and I’ve been to lots of GPs who didn’t really listen to me and assumed I must be binge eating in secret.”
Ms McGough had been told previously she had small nasal passages which may be affecting her sleep, but she was never told the consequences of what might happen if left untreated.
In fact sleep apnoea can cause havoc with hormones and lead to weight gain because the patient simply does not have enough energy to function properly, let alone exercise.
Within a week of seeing Dr Rogers, a sleep machine test confirmed she had sleep apnoea and revealed she was waking up 34 times an hour and getting four and a half hours sleep a night.
She now has a machine that pumps oxygen into her body while she sleeps.
“After three days of using this machine at night I felt like a million dollars,” she said.
“I now sleep seven and a half hours a night.”
With a few minor changes to her diet and exercising every day, she has lost 30 kilos.
The Osana dietitian is also trying to get her to increase her calories, which are around 1100 at the moment.
After a lifetime battle with her weight, Ms McGough hopes she’s now on the right track.
“The weight began piling on when I was seven or eight,” Ms McGough said.
“When I was about 30 I went on a drastic diet, exercising for three hours a day. I lost 112 kilos to get to my goal weight and I started to train to be a personal trainer.
“But then I started to put on weight again and I did not know why.”
Ms McGough, who has two children, said throughout the years she had been abused by people in the street because of her weight. She has been spat at, called fatso and on one occasion someone rolled down their car window and threw a McDonald’s thick shake at her.
“Not everybody who is overweight is over-eating or lazy,” Ms McGough said.
Her weight gain has also affected her confidence.
A psychologist at the surgery is working on her self-esteem and supporting her in her efforts to reach her health goals.
Other members of the team are helping her with other issues.
“I was seeing the dietitian once a week, but now I’m pretty happy with how I’m going, so now I’m seeing her once a month,” she said.
“I also see the surgery’s physiotherapist because I have a bung knee and the psychologist who helps with self-esteem.
“I also go to meditation and core strength classes.”
In five years’ time, Ms McGough’s health statistics will be analysed to see how she has fared in that time.
The health centre on Pittwater Rd is one of five involved in the social experiment, which aims to prove that this primary care model reduces the number of hospital admissions, saving the Government money.
The hope is to convince the Government and health insurers that keeping people well is cheaper, than treating people when they get sick.
Already 450 patients have signed up to the Narrabeen clinic with up to 700 spaces available. More GPs can be brought in if there’s the demand.
Dr Rogers said the Narrabeen centre which opened in October was seeing early success stories, including Ms McGough’s, and they weren’t afraid of taking on difficult cases, but welcomed everyone from the cradle to the grave.
Ms McGough has already persuaded many of her friends and family to sign up.
“It’s a really caring place,” she said. “I am so grateful, it’s changed my life.”