149-year-old medical certificate repatriated



An almost 150-year-old medical certificate found in Musselburgh has been returned to its original home town of Lawrence.

The certificate confirms the patient received a vaccination on March 11, 1870, but it is unclear what the vaccination was for.

Lawrence Rural Health Centre manager Mark Chapman said it was “strange” holding the document, because of how differently things are done these days.

“Now everything is held on computers,” he said.

“Patients have access to all their information through their patient portal.”

The health centre uses Manage My Health, a system that not only keeps a record of the centre’s medical information, but can be used to book appointments and order a prescription.

“If I’m on aspirin or paracetamol, and I’m out somewhere, I can just push a button and it will update the script.”

He estimated 60% of the practice’s patients used the online portal to manage their medical care.

While the modern system was more convenient, he said the old paper way had some benefits.

“The modernisation process is very expensive. Bringing in all these up-to-date computer systems costs a lot more than recording everything on paper.”

With no sign of turning back to the old ways, the practice has decided to frame and hang the certificate on the wall, to commemorate a simpler time.

While it was impossible to make out the name of the recipient of the document, it was signed by Dr Ebenezer Halley, who established the Tuapeka Goldfields Hospital in 1861 and became the house surgeon.

As the population increased, and demands for his services as a general practitioner grew, Dr Halley stepped down from the position, although he remained in the area until his death on November 20, 1875.

“It’s interesting to note that the doctor did the vaccination himself.

“He was the first medical practitioner in Lawrence. That hospital was on the same site as we are now. There is a lot of history here.”

The current health centre opened its doors in 1993, but there had been continuous medical service to the community across the decades.