Doctor prescribes new role for himself

From waiting room to classroom: Bayswater general practitioner Dr Wence Vahala is retiring from active practice and moving into an educator’s role.
From waiting room to classroom: Bayswater general practitioner Dr Wence Vahala is retiring from active practice and moving into an educator’s role.

The 70-year-old said being a doctor for local residents was the main constant in his life, but it was time to move on.

His new role will be to teach hospital practitioners wanting to move into general practice through the Western Australian General Practice Education and Training program in Bentley at Technology Park.

Vahala family members, including Wence’s father and older brother, have been doctors in Bayswater for 75 years.

The Vahala family moved to Australia after they were shot at while escaping communist rule in Czechoslovakia in the ’50s.

‘My parents bought a new car and one day my three siblings and I were told to lie on the floor in the back of the car and asked to keep counting out loud,’ he said.

‘The car was driven swiftly across a field in north Bohemia, across the West German border, as the border patrols were changing guards.

‘By the time the guards started shooting at our car we were safely into Germany where we were taken to a refugee camp in Nuremberg.’

The Swan View resident said as a seven-year-old, he was unaware of any danger and that life was good.

‘But life for my parents and oldest brother, 13 at the time, was a misery,’ he said.

After nine months living in the camp, the Vahala family moved to London where they lived in a refugee flat for two years.

Wence said a chance meeting between his father and an Australian doctor at a hospital in Wales changed their lives with his family later immigrating to Perth.

‘We travelled by boat via the Suez Canal and arrived in Fremantle in March, 1956,’ he said.

Wence graduated from medical school in 1965 and after two years in hospital practice, took a year off to help his father at the family practice and has never looked back.

The grandfather-of-seven said he thanked his patients for a very enjoyable 46 years.