Cape Breton’s Geriatric Medicine and Memory Disability Clinic returns to full service
Cape Breton’s Geriatric and Medicine and Memory Disability Clinic returns to full service.
It’s been a long and winding road but a former chemistry teacher’s decision to leave the education field in favour of a career in medicine has become a boon for Cape Breton’s geriatric patients.
Though it’s a long story, the end result is that Dr. Arlene Kelly-Wiggins is one of two new geriatric doctors recruited to the area, a move that’s allowing Cape Breton’s Geriatric Medicine and Memory Disability Clinic to return to full service.
“It’s an amazing deal for the community. It’s a good news story, finally,” said Marie McPhee, director of seniors and restorative care for the NSHA Eastern Zone.
“The geriatric population that we have, we are going to support people at home where they should be. And by having the family supported and knowing they can pick up the phone and make a local appointment that can get them through a rough time, I think that’s where we are going to shine.”
Kelly-Wiggins will be in the clinic on a full-time basis, while Dr. Andrew Xiao will join her on part-time basis — two weeks on and two weeks off.
In 1985, Kelly-Wiggins was a graduate of St. Michael’s Senior High in Glace Bay and about to embark on a teaching career that took her from Cape Breton to Ottawa and back again.
Though teaching was a rewarding career, medicine always remained in the back of her mind. A career change came to the forefront when her father was hospitalized.
“That just seemed to be the turning point for me,” said Kelly Wiggins, who grew up in the Sterling area.
“I was in the hospital with him for days and days and weeks and months and I thought ‘I really feel comfortable in this environment and I can do this.’”
That experience influenced her decision to enrol at the Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine where she graduated in 2015.
She’d later complete her family medicine residency at Dalhousie’s Sydney site in 2017 and has been working a full-time role in the clinic since October, helping it clear a backlog of patients to the point where new referrals are now being accepted.
Over the past two years Dr. Kenneth Rockwood and colleagues from Halifax had been providing regular scheduled clinics to support family physicians and patients after Cape Breton lost its two geriatric specialists.
Rockwood will continue to support the start-up of the clinic and visit Cape Breton quarterly.
Marie McPhee, director of seniors and restorative care for the NSHA Eastern Zone, Lana Lamey, a registered nurse and Dr. Arlene Kelly-Wiggins, are shown left to right at Cape Breton’s Geriatric Medicine and Memory Disability Clinic. The clinic recently moved to full service.