Doctor who served 5 generations of N.S. families is retiring

Doctor who served 5 generations of N.S. families is retiring

An Elmsdale, N.S., doctor is retiring after 43 years in practice.

Earlier this week, George Burden notified his 2,000 patients that his last day on the job at the Elmsdale Medical Centre will come in January.

“When I started I would have been looking after people who were grandparents and now I’m looking after their great-great-grandchildren,” said Burden.

“I attended a party of one of my patients when she turned 100 and there were 100 direct descendants of her at the party and I was probably looking after half of them.”

Burden’s health is part of his decision. He was struck in a crosswalk by an SUV this summer and suffered injuries to his hands and wrist.

Burden has announced he will be retiring after 43 years. (Dr. George Burden)

He has seen a world of change in the medical field, some for better and some for worse, since he began his career in 1979.

He wanted to give his patients lots of notice so they could try to find another family physician, something that’s hard to do in Nova Scotia.

There are more than 105,000 Nova Scotians in need of a doctor, more than 10 per cent of the province’s population.

“It’s a very difficult decision for a physician like me who has been in the same community for so long to retire because you have so many people who depend on you for their care,” Burden said during a break at the clinic. “You also get very close to your patients.”

Burden says there was no 911 system in his area when he started in medicine. He often would respond to calls in remote areas at all hours.

Clinic always busy

As the East Hants corridor began to grow, the clinic was always busy.

“We saw it all, from people having heart attacks walking through the door to people having their hands half cut off,” said Burden.

“We were literally running an emergency department and covered our patients 24/7. Back then you could call the clinic day or night and access a physician.”

Burden also served as the area medical examiner for 15 years on top of his work at the clinic.

Those calls were grim, but he remembers one that wasn’t when he was called to investigate a report of skeletal remains found by fishermen on the banks of the Shubenacadie River.

Burden is shown with one of his 2,000 patients. (Dr. George Burden)

He said he ruined a new pair of shoes when he walked down the muddy bank to discover what was actually a Halloween costume.

Memorable calls

There were other memorable calls, too. He delivered numerous babies, several unexpectedly.

A delivery at the clinic of a premature baby stands out.

“Our oxygen ran low so we called the local welder and he brought down one of his oxygen tanks,” said Burden. “We ran a line through the window to the baby until we could get the baby transported to hospital.”

One of his first retirement goals is to travel to the Netherlands to visit his daughter and grandson.

He said his career has been very rewarding.

“There’s nothing like that feeling … at the end of a career that I’ve made a difference in people’s lives and that’s the real reward.”