Doctor Rosemary Barnett

Carolynne Dear has her final checkup with Doctor Rosemary Barnett.

Dr Rosemary Barnett reflects on her time in Hong Kong

Rosemary and husband Tom will soon move back to New Zealand

Sai Kung is sadly set to lose popular long-term residents, Doctors Rosemary Barnett and Tom Buckley. Tom has spent over twenty-five years working in government hospitals across Hong Kong, while his wife Rose has dedicated her time as a GP to the Clearwater Bay and Sai Kung communities, most recently at OT&P Razor Hill.

Rosemary arrived in Hong Kong as a newly graduated doctor while Tom was an anaesthetist in 1988 for “a year or so,” says Rose. “We wanted to travel and we’d seen a TV show at home in New Zealand about the Trans Siberian Express railway, so we thought we’d go to Hong Kong, earn some money and go travelling.” Both doctors were offered work in the Territory (Tom as an anaesthetist at Prince of Wales hospital and Rose as a GP at the then Anderson & Partners clinic in Silverstrand), one year turned into two, and the rest, as they say, is history. Loving the Sai Kung community, the pair eventually moved to government apartments in the area (where The Giverny now stands) in 1992.

Rose took up her current position as GP with OT&P in 1999. During this time they had three children, who are now working and studying in Australia and New Zealand. Tom officially retired one year ago, but has been working at Princess Margaret hospital on an extended two-year contract. He was considering signing up for another two years, when he suddenly fell ill at the end of July this year. The pair decided, finally, it was time to go home. “It was a crystallising moment,” says Rose. “We’ve been saying “oh, we’re going”, and then “oh no we’re not, another two years”, for a while now. I think Tom’s illness has clarified where we really want to be, and that is back in New Zealand.

There have been major events over the last 25 years when Rose says she has never been more grateful for the friends she has made here, who have become her Hong Kong family. “The SARS epidemic in 2003 was momentous for our family,” she says. Tom (bythis time a senior consultant at Prince of Wales) was on the frontline as cases – of what at the time was an unknown virus – came in. “Because they were not sure what they were dealing with, Tom was unable to come home in case he spread the virus. He was living and sleeping in his office, literally dumping his dirty laundry at the back-door for me to boilwash. It was an incredibly unstable time, people were leaving Hong Kong in droves and there was talk of the Territory being quarantined.

Another special memory was the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. “We were invited to the most lavish ball I have ever attended,” Rose recalls. “It was a night of mixed emotions, but I will never forget the poignant sight of Prince Charles and Chris Patten, standing in the rain at Tamar, rolling up the Union flag. There was lots of celebration, but also lots of sadness.”

“I also will miss our annual Christmas Eve carols, the fun nights I’ve spent with girlfriends in Sai Kung square, and the community we’ve been involved with at Resurrection Church. I think it’s going to be tough replicating what we have here”.

Rose will also miss her day-to-day job and colleagues. “I will miss the staff at OT&P. I have been working with head nurse Betty since 1999, and have been blessed to have been working with such a special group of people, whose smiles, laughter and care for each other and for the patients is incredible. Dr Helen and Dr Simon are dedicated doctors, supportive colleagues and good friends. I will miss this special team.”

Rose hopes to continue her work with OT&P in the future, with planned trips back to Hong Kong. Other projects include charity medical work, learning jazz piano, playing golf and completing a ski instructor course. And the trip on the Trans Siberian Express? “It’s still on the bucket list!” she laughs.