A Small, Rural Community Rallies Behind Its Healthcare Team

Dr. Jim Rafferty has been working at the North Queens Community Health Centre since it was located in a renovated double-wide trailer that had once been the town's old liquor store.
The small, unrenovated trailer where nurse practitioner Renate Bennett worked severely limited the care she could provide. In the summer of 2009 Renate and Jim took photojournalist Roger Lemoyne to meet people in the community who are their patients, friends and neighbours.
"Caledonia might not be a bustling metropolis, but it's a great place to live. This is a vital, well-functioning community. Often our patients are also our friends and neighbours and we are more than just doctors or nurses who treat their illnesses." Dr. Jim Rafferty.
"This is the trailer where I used to work. It's being used as a stable now. It gave us a roof over our heads but it was far from state-of-the-art in terms of technology and there was so much more we wanted to do that we couldn't even consider." Dr. Jim Rafferty
"The Douglas sawmill is right across the street from us and when our local Health Board decided that trailers had to go, the entire community rallied behind the effort to build a new health centre. The N.F. Douglas company donated the lumber and the Van Dykes, the folks who sell wild blueberry juice, dug the foundation." Dr. Jim Rafferty
"People around here work hard, mainly at farming and lumbering. They don't make the big city salaries but they raised a very respectable $52,000 to help fund the new healthcare centre." Dr. Jim Rafferty
"The Square Foot Club invited peoplee to 'buy' a square foot for a donation of $100. All the individuals and businesses that contributed are recorded on this wall in our reception area." Dr. Jim Rafferty
"The Douglas family is deeply committed to this community. They bought up this mill in the early 90's to help keep jobs in the community. It's right across the road from the health centre and they let emergency helicopters use the lot as a landing pad since our parking lot isn't big enough." Dr. Jim Rafferty
"Maurice Judge took photojournalist Roger Lemoyne out to see what's left of the old sawmill where he worked before he retired. Lumber is one of the biggest employers in this area and has been since the turn of the last century." Dr. Jim Rafferty.
"Now that I have heat and running water and a private space where I can see patients I can do thongs that were impossible for me before. Little Lilly here was getting her one-year shot. Her parents, Robbie and Esther, farm in the community." Renate Bennett, NP
"Not all our patients come to the clinic just for basic primary care like Maurice here. So our new tele health links allow us to offer educateon sessions with outside specialists. We have the facilities now to have a lab technician come once a week to do blood testing. Counsellors for mental health and addiction come to our centre. We're just able to do so much more now." Dr. Jim Rafferty
"We also make regular house calls to the folks who can't get into the clinic easily. Roger went with me to the North Queens Retirement Home. Some of our seniors are too frail to make the journey to the clinic. I'm sorry to say that Peggy here has passed away since this picture was taken." Dr. Jim Rafferty
"I used to drop in to treat Roxie's late husband at home and now I come to see her. She's in her late 80's and has an eye condotion that is causing her to slowly lose her vision, but she still manages the family home all on her own. Gardening is her passion and her front yard is a work of art. Everyone, even the kids, stop to look at it." Dr. Jim Rafferty
"Because making house calls is part of the way we do our job it means people who aren't terrifically mobile don't fall through the cracks. Kristina's truck wasn't working and her son Ty had an ear infection so I dropped in on my way home to see how he was doing." Renate Bennett, NP
"Mary Lee had hip replacement surgery recently and was worried about an ulcer on her leg. Neight this nor osteoporosis has stopped her from looking after her two story home all by herself. When you have patients who want to be independent it's rewarding to see the difference house calls can make in their lives." Renate Bennett, NP
"I actually get to visit with the entire age spectrum. In between getting hugs from seniors and doing well-baby care, I also visit the local high school. Kids looking for information on birth control don't always want to come to the clinic where the receptionist is likely to know their mom, so now I can offer it to them in complete privacy at school." Renate Bennett, NP
"Part of the philosophy of our healthcare team is that we are part of a larger healthcare commanity and that our responsibility extends beyond our geographic boundaries and our community supports us in that. When communities around us lose their care providers we reach out to support them until they can find a new doctor or nurse practitioner." Dr. Jim Rafferty
"I love living and working in Caledonia but since the people in this community built this new health centre I'm much happier with the service we're able to give them. We have so many more resources here that we can provide better care for our patients and, with the support of our community, we can do a lot more to help other communities, that need our help." Dr. Jim Rafferty

Photography: Roger Lemoyne

Caledonia, Nova Scotia is a small but determined community in the North Queens region. Like other rural towns in Canada, they faced the dual challenges of finding and keeping healthcare practitioners. They had succeeded very well at the first. They had two fulltime doctors and a nurse practitioner, all deeply committed to working and living in the area. The care they provided had become integral to the quality of life in the community, but their working conditions were far from ideal. The doctors worked out of a renovated double-wide trailer and the nurse practitioner worked in a much smaller trailer next door that laced both heat and running water. People throughout the community of Caledonia rallied behind their healthcare team and built a new, state-of-the-art community healthcare centre.

For more information on North Queens Community Health Centre, contact:

Address: North Queens Community Health Centre 1058 Albany Road RR#2 Caledonia, NS B0T 1B0 Phone: 902-682-2662

Email: rbennett@ssdha.nshealth.ca JRafferty@ssdha.nshealth.ca

Visit http://northqueens.ednet.ns.ca/pages/medctr.html to learn more about the history of the North Queens Community Health Centre.

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