It was July 2012 when I first drove through Hay. I was driving down to Port Augusta, on a holiday from Sydney, and heading up to Coober Pedy and the edge of the Simpson Desert across the border down to Finke and then out to Andado, altogether about 6- 7000 kms return, around 700 kilometres on dirt.) Camping and driving for a couple of weeks.
On my way back I detoured down into Adelaide to check out a Lapidary shop. And then It was time to head home to Sydney via Gawler and back up through the Riverina.
It was when I checked my tyres etc in Gawler that I found my front passenger side tyre pressure was well down. So I topped it up and headed off, finally getting to Cobdogla near Barmera, only to find the following morning, that overnight the tyre had gone down again.
It was now pretty obvious the tyre would need changing, and I decided to find the first tyre service I could to fix it. Driving fairly slowly for quite a time so as not to put any pressure on the tyre and see it collapse
It wasn’t until I got to Balranald that I found someone to fix the tyre. Sure enough, it had a screw in it. After just doing hundreds of kilometres on pretty jagged roads in the red centre, I had managed to pick up a screw in Adelaide on bitumen, where they were building a new freeway!
At any rate, it was now getting late in the day for winter, as I had lost time nursing the tyre along. I got into Hay at around four o’clock and decided I had enough for the day and I would stay for the night, rather than take on the kangaroos, as it would soon be dark.
I checked into the Big 4 and then went over the bridge, looking for takeaway. And there I found the Wok, -Thai Fish and Chips shop.
While I was waiting for my order I started to wonder, how many dentists there were in Hay? And I noticed a house in the real estate window as well. Which seemed like a much better price than Sydney properties.
So I then asked the lady at the takeaway – how many dentists are there in Hay?
Later, I would come to know this lady as Von. She said to me- “ there are no dentists in Hay” And very surprised, I said – “ what do you mean there are no dentists in Hay”?
To which she replied – “No, there are none,- I am going to Cairns to get my teeth done”
Things were now starting to get a bit confusing. I grew up in Cairns North Queensland and here was Von, telling me, she was off to Cairns, to see the dentist.
Not knowing the Hay area at all, I, for one moment asked, – “what do you mean, you are going to Cairns to get your teeth done”? “ I am from Cairns”.
I was half thinking there must be another town around here called Cannes? Or something. But Von said, “Yes that’s right,- I’m off to Cairns, on holidays, and I will get my teeth done while I am there because there isn’t anyone here”. She said she thought the Council may be looking for someone.
So that was where it all started. If I hadn’t picked up a slow leaking flat tyre in Adelaide I would have got to Hay a lot earlier that day, and not stayed for the night. I would not have had that talk with Von at the Wok. And not given any thought to starting a dental service in Hay. I would have come through Hay at mid-day and kept going on to Sydney. There would have been no concern about driving in the dark, and kangaroos.
As it turned out, the council were not looking for a dentist, and neither was the Hospital clinic. But it started me thinking about a tree change when I got back to Sydney. And here I am still. Four years later.
I have since heard similar stories from my patients – one who broke down in her car at the round-about at Hay, after driving up from Melbourne or Adelaide? – I can’t remember where she said she came from. But she then met a man here and now they are married with kids. So it’s not that uncommon a story, apparently.
I have recently sold the practice to Dr Jimmi Patel and his wife Kritika in Deniliquin. They are both very competent dentists and lovely people, with a beautiful young family. The practice has had a name change. Now to be known as Local Dental (Hay). The Charlotte Street clinic is now to be known as Local Dental (Deniliquin ) and the Finley clinic as Local Dental (Finley).
The emphasis is on “Local” and supporting the local community. It demonstrates a commitment to building a strong dental service , that provides support into the future for the people of Hay Deniliquin and Finley. And it demonstrates how important Jim and Kritika value their local commitment.
It is a service that I am very happy to continue to be a part of, and proud to have played a part in its evolution.