The Crookwell medical fraternity will this Friday farewell Dr Ramaswamy Thangavelu after 45 years' service to the local hospital.
But Dr Velu, as he's popularly known, is not the retiring type. The widely respected 85-year-old plans to continue his private practice in the town.
His departure as the hospital's Visiting Medical Officer comes after a lifetime of devotion.
Former deputy nurse manager, Julie Eldridge, said there were many examples of his dedication but one instance stood out in her mind.
One night there were 21 children in the busy ward.
"There was a very sick child whose older sibling had died of croup the previous year. This child now had severe croup," she said.
"That night Dr Thangavelu sat with the child all night. She is now a mother with her own children living in Crookwell. It was dedication such as this that made me realise he was not only very capable, but had a lot of empathy and total commitment to his patients."
Dr Velu and wife, Chandra, came to Crookwell in 1975 at Dr Christian's invitation and to replace Dr Rikard-Bell. He had completed medical studies, including a Master of Surgery, in India and in 1970 was sponsored to work in Lockhart.
He set up practice in Goulburn Street, Crookwell. Ms Eldgridge said from 1975 to 2002, Dr Velu was one of just two doctors providing all medical, emergency and surgical services to the hospital as well as the community from their general practices.
He covered the full gamut, from emergencies to standard procedures, obstetrics, paediatrics and major repair of fractures and dislocations. Ms Eldridge said Dr Velu was an "extremely astute surgeon" and many Upper Lachlan Shire residents owed their lives to him.
The man himself said it was a challenge to retain hospital services. Surgery was performed up until 15 years ago but was stopped because the theatre required upgrade. He continued surgery in Goulburn until 2015. At Crookwell he now undertakes minor procedures.
Likewise, the declining birth rate saw the obstetrics department close but he and Dr Christian continued delivering babies in Goulburn. Ms Eldridge said she witnessed Dr Velu perform many complicated caesarians.
He told The Post he most enjoyed the emergency work and the "wonderful support" of paramedics, Goulburn and Canberra Hospitals. Likewise, he praised his former colleague, Dr Anna Kovacs, and Dr Lisa Opie.
"The services are good and the hospital is in the planning stages of an upgrade to its emergency department," Dr Velu said.
Ms Eldridge said Dr Velu had worked tirelessly to provide 24-hour, seven-day a week care for hospital patients at a time when there was no locum relief.
"There were days on end when he would have very little sleep, however there was never any indication that this had any effect on his ability to continue to provide safe professional care to all patients," she said.
The community has reciprocated Dr Velu's generosity.
He said he was grateful for their support after his son, Amar, died from muscular dystrophy, aged forty-two.
In 2011, Dr Velu was named Crookwell's Citizen of the Year. In the same year he was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for services to the community as a medical practitioner as an officer in the medical division.
And in 2018 he was recognised with a NSW Government Long Service Medal for 'meritorious Service to Crookwell District Hospital.'
"This man has dedicated his life to his patients and still manages to involve himself in community service activities such as Rotary," Ms Eldridge said.
Dr Velu plans to continue his private practice at least until the end of the year, and to stay in the town. He thanked his wife and practice manager, Chandra, son, Visu and daughter Veena for their support.
"I've loved my career and still do. It's been wonderful to me," he said.
"...I think the people here get the best of care because it's a small community and they look out for each other."
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