Honouring 40 years of service

Dr. Anita Foley Health Services Centre

By Lois Ann Dort    

GUYSBOROUGH – Dr. Anita Foley will be honoured this weekend with the grand opening and official naming of the new Health Services Centre located in the new wing of the Guysborough Memorial Hospital. While many citizens throughout the Guysborough area lobbied to have the new wing named after Foley, she is humbled by the honour and accolades. A long-time health practitioner in Guysborough there are many who owe Foley their health if not their lives and feel the new Dr. Anita Foley Health Services Centre is a fitting tribute for all she has done for healthcare in Guysborough and surrounding areas. Foley sat down with The Journal last week to talk about her years in practice and the opening of the new hospital wing.

Foley came to Guysborough and to medicine via a circuitous route. Before medical school she had earned a Masters in Nutrition from the University of Toronto, taught in Tanzania for two years and entertained the idea of pursuing a PhD in Nutrition. Her path altered when one of her sisters advised her to look into dentistry, which did not appeal to Foley but did lead her to Dalhousie Medical School. She came to Guysborough shortly after graduating from Dalhousie in 1976 anticipating a short stay in the community. She has been practicing medicine here ever since.

Over the years Foley has seen many changes in both the practice of medicine and the community. When asked about the changes in medical care she noted the evolution of medical technology over time. “There’s far more technical testing equipment now than there was when I started, such as CAT scans and MRIs. They hadn’t been invented when I came here.

“Medical care has changed considerably also in the responsibility of the nurses and the improved training of the nurses. So that the nurses, particularly in our hospital, are absolutely fantastic. And I’m sure they are in other hospitals,” said Foley.

The change that stands out the most for Foley is cardiac care. “With clot-busting drugs; I think they have saved hundreds of lives around here. The other thing that has improved considerably is care of the patients dying, particularly of cancer. The care of the dying patient has improved...with the advances of palliative care.”

The demographics of the area have changed greatly since Foley first came to work in Guysborough. “The biggest changes have been the marked population drop and the change in the population from children and young people as compared to elderly. At first it was mostly children and women having babies...now it is mostly grandparents and middle aged people. I really find the loss of having little children around; I find it kind of sad that you can’t hear little children playing and laughing.”

The demographic shift has created new challenges for healthcare professionals as well. An older population is more complicated medically, said Foley, “because they have multiple organ system problems.”

Medicine in Guysborough is moving into a new era with the the grand opening of the new Health Services wing; a development that Foley has, in concert with many other community members, pushed forward for many years. She’s pleased with the new building and said, “Once we get used to using it, it might become a one-stop-shopping place for people.”

As for having the new health services wing named in her honour, Foley is reluctant to stand in the spotlight. She said she’s just been doing her job as best she could. “It is very gratifying that so many of the patients think it is a wonderful thing. That’s very nice...I’m no saint and I’m no Albert Einstein. I am just an ordinary person...It’s very humbling to be honoured in that way.”