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Family physician Dr. Paula Slaney opening new practice in Burin

Dr. Paula Slaney is looking forward to serving the needs of the Burin Peninsula through her new practice in Burin. - Photo by Chelsey Lawrence Photography
Dr. Paula Slaney is looking forward to serving the needs of the Burin Peninsula through her new practice in Burin. - Photo by Chelsey Lawrence Photography - Contributed

BURIN, N.L. — Dr. Paula Slaney hopes her new medical practice in Burin will help reduce the number of people in the region without a family doctor.

“In training, I noticed that when I worked emergency room shifts, when I said (to patients) ‘You can follow up with your family doctor in a week or so’, they would say ‘No, I don’t have a family doctor,’” explained Slaney, “but it wasn’t really until it was confirmed that I would be setting up practice and people started to reach out that I got a better feel for how significant of an issue this is.”

The physician has had over 100 people inquiring on how to be added to her patent list.

“That is the million-dollar question,” Slaney said. “I’m hoping to have my receptionist hired by the last of July, at which point there will be a form that has clinic policies on it, and patients will be able to get the form hopefully the end of July.”

She will also try to have them available at the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre

Slaney explained that once interested persons have reviewed and signed the document agreeing to the clinic’s policies it can be returned to her clinic in the Burin Pharmacy building adjacent from Dr. David Kwinter.

First come, first served

“The building is undergoing some renovation and I need to get everything up and running, so the goal is early August,” she noted.

The doctor said it is rewarding in one sense to have so many people reaching out to her looking to become a patient.

“Obviously that is the goal, you want to provide good family care, but it is actually a little bit surprising (because) I personally didn’t realize how many people were actually without a family doctor, and one of my concerns is that I may have to have a wait list and then add more (patients) on after the fact,” she noted.

Slaney said that she does not want to get into a situation where patients are having long wait times to get in for their first appointment.

“So, when you put your name on the (patient) list it will be first come, first served,” she said.

Slaney will also be doing emergency room shifts at the health care centre in Burin. Then in the fall she will be able to perform minor procedures on her own patients at the hospital.

No place like home

Slaney always knew she wanted to return to the Burin Peninsula once she had finished her schooling.

“There was a point in my medical career that I was considering specializing in pediatrics,” she said. “If that had of been the case it would have been a lot more challenging to come home, however, with family medicine it made it quite easy to come back to the Burin Peninsula.”

She chose family medicine over pediatrics because she did not want to limit the scope of her practice. She is also interested in working with the entire family and not just those who fall under pediatric care.

For a time, Slaney had also considered moving to Nunavut.

“I spent a month in Iqaluit in Nunavut during my (training) and I very much enjoyed it there, so I did consider going up there, but when I made my list, very much coming home was a priority,” she said.

Slaney considers herself lucky to have so many family members still living on the Burin Peninsula.

“It is really nice to be able to spend time with them.”

Returning to the Burin Peninsula allows Slaney the opportunity to give back to the people and the region.

“Yesterday was my first emergency shift,” Slaney told The Southern Gazette on Thursday, July 5. “So that was actually my first shift as a staff physician, where I was the most responsible physician for patients.”

For Slaney it was a rewarding experience, but the was also a mix of nervousness.

“Obviously you go to school — in my case I was in school for 11 years total between my undergraduate training, my medical training and my residency training — so when you’re in school that long it’s difficult sometimes to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said, “but now that you get here it’s very rewarding, and to be able to provide care for people who raised me.

“I’m a Burin Peninsula girl. I grew up in Lawn, but still the entire peninsula is kind of like a big village. So having the opportunity to come back and provide services and give back to an area that pretty well gave me every opportunity that I had.

"I always felt very supported by my community and it is a little overwhelming, incredibly rewarding and a great feeling…a lot of people don’t get the opportunity, they are unable to work where they are from, so I very much feel lucky to be able to do that.”

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