The Best Doctors in Canberra


Whether you only visit a GP when you’re struck down by the flu, or you have an ongoing or chronic medical condition that requires more frequent check-ups, finding a doctor you can trust is important.

A good GP (or general practitioner) does more than diagnose illnesses and write medical certificates. They provide specialist referrals, monitor your progress, keep an eye out for problems that you may not have noticed, and play an important role in your overall health and wellbeing.

But what qualities make a great GP, and where can you find the best in Canberra? Let’s take a closer look.

What makes a good and reliable doctor?

It can be helpful to keep the following in mind when choosing a new GP.

  • Accreditation. Your chosen GP should be up-to-date with the latest developments in general practice. Look for a GP that is a fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), which indicates they have completed special training and professional development. A practice accredited against RACGP standards is also ideal.
  • Personality and approach. Look for a GP whose personality is compatible with your own. You might prefer someone who is calm, clear and warm compared to a doctor with a more matter-of-fact, direct approach.
  • Billing options. If you don’t want any out of pocket expenses, find a practice that bulk bills patients. For more in-depth consultations that don’t feel rushed, however, you may be better off choosing a practice where you pay a private fee.
  • Type of practice. A smaller neighbourhood practice might suit you if it’s close to home or work, and you appreciate seeing the same GP at each visit. Larger practices, on the other hand, may offer extra services under one roof (like pathology or x-rays) have extended opening hours and a wider range of appointment times because more doctors are available.
  • Thorough and attentive to detail. Your chosen GP should be well-versed in a range of medical complaints and procedures. They should be happy to work through different tests and treatments until you find what works for you, and they shouldn’t mind explaining symptoms, tests and treatments.

The top doctors in Canberra – according to you

RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 19 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.

To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.

Garema Place Surgery

Dr Felicity Donaghy is principal of Garema Place Surgery, which is also highly recommended by RiotACT readers.

Dr Donaghy has worked in general practice since 1990 and graduated from Sydney University. She is available for appointments on weekdays.

Here’s what one patient had to say about Dr Donaghy: “I’ve seen many doctors in my long life and Felicity is one of the best in my opinion. She is highly competent and displays compassion for and interest in her patients.”

Palmerston Medical Centre

Dr Michael Gan, Dr Sandy Vitikos and Dr Prad Southi at Palmerston Medical Centre’s come highly rated from readers.

Dr Southi, for example, is “phenomenal with kids,” as well as “patient, attentive and not afraid to admit that his previous suspicions were wrong.”

Dr Vitikos is “super friendly” while Dr Gan has “a lot of certificates on his wall” thanks to his extensive experience and study.

Palmerston Medical Centre is open Monday to Saturday.

National Health Co-op

If you have a medical emergency rather than an ongoing situation, you may not be worried about being able to see the same doctor over the long-term.

In this case, the National Health Co-op (formerly West Belconnen Co-op) might be a good choice. Online bookings are available.

Past patients recommend this surgery because it has “amazing doctors”.

User experience tells us that “they usually come over from England for 12 months” at a time, though they are well-trained and cheap to visit.

Your experience with doctors in Canberra

Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.

Have you had experience with any of the doctors listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.

What's Your Opinion?

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145 Responses to The Best Doctors in Canberra
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Fiona Fiona 5:43 pm 13 May 08

I can’t recommend mine because you have to wait 3 weeks for a non-emergency apppointment and you can’t get in on th day even if you are sick

so yesterday morning I got up asnd went to the Phillip bulk billing clinic and got in and out so I could get my drs cert and script. only a 15 min wait at 7am, but if you get there after 9, expect to wait 3 hours to be seen.

gun street girl gun street girl 5:45 pm 13 May 08

Canberra is currently classified as an “area of need” as far as GPs go – at last count, there was a ratio of one GP for every 1000 patients, or thereabouts. The exceptionally good ones, who people often recommend (and those well known within the industry) have usually had their books closed for years.

cazjs cazjs 6:00 pm 13 May 08

I can recommend my doctor – at the Garema Place Surgery, upstairs in (surprise!) Garema Place. However i don’t know how easy it is to get an appointment as a new patient, as i’ve been going there for about five years. I do know that i can call them at about 8 in the morning and eight or nine times out of ten i’ll get an appointment that day. And i never wait more than about five minutes for my scheduled appointment.

They have four GPs (i think, maybe it’s five) and a nurse and they’re very professional but friendly and warm. I’ve seen all the doctors and would recommend them all.

CanberraResident CanberraResident 6:04 pm 13 May 08

Try Palmerston Medical Centre. They don’t bulk bill, but if you ask nicely and explain your circumstances, they MAY ask you to pay the gap only (about $14 or so). No guarantees though. Three excellent doctors. I always ask for Dr Michael Gan, telephone 6242 9464, Tiptree Crescent Palmerston ACT 2913. Friendly, very highly recommended, professional and knows his stuff. Great with kids too. I had the same doc for 15 years until he retired recently. Found Gan a few months ago and he’s great.

Good luck.

nanzan nanzan 6:49 pm 13 May 08

Ditto to Canberra Resident’s comments about Palmerston Medical Clinic in general and Dr Gan specifically. It is a wonderful clinic in a very convenient location for Gungahlin residents especially, and they bend over backwards to get you in the same day or soon after with your preferred doctor. There is a great pharmacy at the Palmerston Shopping Centre as well, which is doubly convenient. (The pizza shop there is pretty fantastic too!)

sepi sepi 6:56 pm 13 May 08

Canberra has the lowest rate of bulk billing doctors in Australia, so your chances of getting a good family doctor who bulk bills are buckleys to none.

Canberra has the second lowest rate of doctors per capita (second only to some remote area of the NT), which is why the doctors who are here can charge like wounded bulls, and you still have to wait days for an appointment.

ant ant 7:57 pm 13 May 08

Echo the sentiments of the OP. When I ripped my achilles and could only shuffle (slowly), finding a GP taking a new patient was a long, depressing exercise. I eventually found a fantastic GP at Ainslie, and was delighted, but now she’s moved to the Uni of Canberra health service (if you are at UCAN, her name’s Pam Whalen and she’s brilliant). So now I don’t know where to go next time I need a doctor. A relative got in to see a GP at that Brindabella health centre in Queanbeyan today, and was pretty happy with them.

I’ve been seeingn a dermatologist in Bowral, because the wait to get in to one of the few here in Canberra was like 6 months, to see the Bowral person was a couple of weeks, and if you can make it to Campbletown, it’s days!

toriness toriness 8:15 pm 13 May 08

I don’t know if there’s a waiting list/no new patients but Dr Ian Mills at O’Connor shops is excellent – I went to him once in being the closest GP to me at the time when I couldn’t get into my normal GP and I never went back to my old GP after that. He is fantastic!

Meconium Meconium 8:28 pm 13 May 08

Drs Khushbir Johar, Aidan Lawrence, John Sanderson and Paul Joseph are all good – they’re at Phillip Medical Centre (where they bulk bill everyone). For the best treatment you should probably go there and request to see one of the above, if they’re available, rather than one of the other doctors in the Centre (which don’t provide as good a service IMHO, and some are very rushed, in order to push patients through, especially those who need a simple course of antibiotics for example).

Myrmecia Myrmecia 8:46 pm 13 May 08

“A good doctor”

What are your criteria for determining what’s a “good” (and for that matter a “bad”) doctor?

CanberraResident CanberraResident 9:13 pm 13 May 08

A “bad” doctor could be one that has a bad bedside manner, too quick to prescribe medications, dismisses doing further tests (and yet a week later another doctor suggests that tests should have been done), touches you without telling you what he is about to do, doesn’t explain your condition, doesn’t explain the purpose of any prescribed medication, and boots you out the door in under 5 minutes … you know, that kind of thing …

A “good” doctor is thorough, asks many questions, is genuinely interested in helping you, takes you seriously, is not too quick to boot you out of the door, provides helpful information and advice, tells you if you need to come back to see him again and the reasons why, provides an honest medical certificate, explains the purpose of your medication, and is supportive, and friendly.

Simple really.

stray stray 9:20 pm 13 May 08

I adore Dr Steven Kenneally at Ainslie. He is all class.
Shame though, problem with good docs, everyone else wants to see them too!
Takes a while to get an appointment, let alone on the days you are unwell – but he is just terrific if you can.
Very good esp if you have an ongoing condition.

magella magella 9:52 pm 13 May 08

“I eventually found a fantastic GP at Ainslie, and was delighted, but now she’s moved to the Uni of Canberra health service (if you are at UCAN, her name’s Pam Whalen and she’s brilliant). So now I don’t know where to go next time I need a doctor.”

You don’t need to be a student at UC to to see the doctors at the health centre, all of whom are great, especially richard mater and jenny weeks.

ant ant 10:24 pm 13 May 08

Magella, I’m going to call them tomorrow to check that, and if you’re right, me and the relative will be THERE. Pam Whalen is the best doctor I’ve ever encountered.

ANU health service rules are you have to be at ANU to use it, so I assumed UCAN was the same. location-wise, it’s inconvenient, but that’s a tiny consideration. Thanks!

deezagood deezagood 10:51 pm 13 May 08

Agree with stray – you won’t find a better doc than Steve Kennealy (he is especially good with little kids) but he is no longer at Ainslie – does anybody know where he went??

VicePope VicePope 7:38 am 14 May 08

Doug Lee in Erindale is smart and pleasant, but very busy. I don’t know if he has hired a new offsider yet, but his choice in them has been brilliant in the past. I know someone who swears by the medical centre near the Wanniassa shopping centre – lots of doctors and all/most of them good.

Agree with previous comments on demand/waiting and bulkbilling. I have assumed it’s just not going to happen during my lifetime.

omqvc omqvc 9:18 am 14 May 08

Thanks for the recs, everyone.
Later on I’ll look all of them up and ring around to see who will accept new patients, and who doesn’t.

As for what makes a good doctor and a bad doctor, CanberraResident is spot on. I just want someone who is honest, takes their time, and makes me feel comfortable, especially with ‘all round checkups’ if you know what I mean.

tylersmayhem tylersmayhem 9:33 am 14 May 08

I guess it often comes down to you get what you pay for. It’s true that there is a huge lack of certificate centres (bulk billing) practices in Canberra now. But I think if you want a “good” doctor who bulk bills, it’s like asking for a 5 course meal at a fine dining restaurant for $15! Any time I’ve been to a Certificate Centre, it’s like McDonald’s. Turn over as many patients (and money) in a day as possible, and everyone’s laughing, except for the misdiagnosed souls who trust their health in a “money maker” rather than a professional GP. This will no doubt spark a debate about how not everyone can afford a good doctor etc etc, and I’m not denying there is a definite GP shortage in this town. What I will say is that if you are prepared to spend a few hundred bucks servicing your car every 10,000km, you should be bloody well putting money aside to look after you and your families health – full stop.

I can recommend Dr Brenda Tait in Woden. She’s been my GP for years and is thorough, professional and makes sure all bases are covered. She was recommended to me by several family friends who all work in the healthcare industry years ago. It’s hard to find an excellent Dr who you can stick with. Dr Tait is not the cheapest around, but I think she’s the best.

Not sure about the possibility of her taking on new patients, but I booked an appointment last week, and I only needed to wait about 4 – 5 days.

gun street girl gun street girl 9:37 am 14 May 08

A doctor who “takes their time” often does so at a loss – in a standard consultation for a GP, if the patient isn’t in and out within 15-20 minutes from go to whoa, they lose money. In my experience, it’s impossible to accurately take a history and clinically assess in such a small space of time. So, a tip – if you’ve got lots of questions and issues to deal with (beyond “I have a cold and need a certificate”), book an extended appointment. That way, you get your time with the GP, they are appropriately renumerated, and they aren’t running behind on the rest of their list for the remainder of the day.

tylersmayhem tylersmayhem 10:32 am 14 May 08

Nice points there Gun Street Girl!

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