Tavistock theatre sister Rosie retires after 40 years

By John Hutchins in Local People

A LONG-SERVING theatre sister at Tavistock Hospital has retired after 40 years of dedicated service — just one day after being guest of honour at the opening of the hospital’s refurbished theatre.

Rosie Primmer started working in medicine in 1973 at Devonport and Greenbank Hospitals in Plymouth, before becoming a state enrolled nurse at Tavistock in February 1977. That proved to be a particularly important year in Rosie’s life, as in July 1977 she married her husband Alan, meaning that later this year the couple will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.

She said: ‘I will miss my friends and colleagues at Tavistock Hospital but am looking forward to a happy and long retirement.’

Her colleague Trish Cooper, the matron at Tavistock Hospital, told the Times: ‘Rosie Primmer has worked at Tavistock Hospital for 40 years and I feel very privileged to have worked with her over the last couple of years. Rosie has seen many changes over the years and most recently the refurbishment of the theatre suite – where she contributed so much.

‘All of the staff will miss Rosie, but we wish her well in the future and ask her not to be a stranger and keep in touch.’

At the theatre’s reopening Rosie helped town mayor Cllr Mandy Ewings cut the ribbon and reminisced about her 40 years at the hospital to colleagues, representatives of Livewell South West, Derriford Hospital, the Tavistock League of Friends and the Mayor of Tavistock.

‘Old photographs show that before I came to work at Tavistock Hospital the theatre was situated in the old dining room, now OPD room 6. Large containers using boiling water provided the means for sterilising the surgical instruments. This was not a feasible solution and it soon became apparent that the process needed to be changed.

‘I came to Tavistock in 1977 and started work at the local hospital in February. At that time the theatre was situated where the new main waiting room is now located. Access was by a large sliding door directly onto the main corridor.

‘Autoclaves had now taken over the sterilisation of our instruments, namely the matron and the “little sister”.

‘Chris Barron was the theatre sister with Eve Palmer and myself as theatre nurses and Thelma Reed as the anaesthetic assistant with the unit containing only four staff. The ward area was a separate unit manned by other colleagues.

‘Over the years many surgeons came and went. I remember fondly Douglas Vellocott, George Davidson, Ian Cunningham, Mike Riley, John Dinham, John Hazelwood, Colin Brown and the Kerseys - Pete and Di - GP anaesthetists Dr Winfield, Dr Young, Jacqui Stokes and consultant anaesthetists Dr Keddie, Dr Collie and the charismatic Martin Coates.

‘In 1996 a complete refurbishment of the ground floor saw the theatres moved to the old OPD waiting room and x-ray department. It was designed as a surgical unit with an operating room, anaesthetic room, recovery area and a ward. This greatly improved the efficiency of the surgical service at Tavistock.

‘SDU at Derriford took over the sterilisation of our instruments and they arrived neatly packed and sterile – marvellous! Ten years on, Livewell Southwest authorised the need for a comprehensive, up-to-date facility and that is what you can see today.

‘The project team consisted of myself, Trish Cooper, Sue Wilkin, Keith Houghton, Nathan Carr, Mike Lincoln and other project management personnel (too many to mention) but not forgetting the vast input by Interserve, who worked hard with the project team enabling this facility to be completed on time.

‘After a years’ secondment to Derriford theatres, in January of this year the theatre staff returned home. They all worked incredibly hard in the preparation of the theatre suite enabling us to receive our first patient on January 3, 2017.

‘We can all look forward to the future with enthusiasm and confidence in Tavistock Hospital’s new state-of-the art theatre.

‘As I am about to retire after 40 years of service at Tavistock Hospital, it gives me great pleasure to know that the excellent service provided by the theatre team here can continue and I would like to wish you all well.

‘I am proud and privileged to declare Tavistock Hospital Surgical Unit, well and truly open, may it prosper.’

Rosie now plans to spend more time going away in their motorhome as ‘there are so many places yet to see not only aboard but in this country.’

She is also embarking on a luxury cruise later in the year, visiting all the capitals of the Baltic.’

From now on, instead of giving her care and attention to her patients and colleagues at the hospital Rosie is looking forward to pottering in her garden to tend her plants.

Swapping her theatre scrub gloves for the green fingered variety she is also about to undertake a Royal Horticultural Society course at Camborne.

Colleagues presented Rosie with a beautiful, engraved vase, one that she said she just ‘loves’.

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