At 6:30 a.m. on a weekday, chances are you’ll find Dr. Deon Erasmus out on a gravel road near the town of Provost, running past wheat fields. He’ll be with six or seven other men from the running club that he started up 20 years ago.
He loves running. In fact, he’s ran so many marathons and ultra-marathons that he’s lost count of exactly how many.
Sometimes, his spouse, Antoinette, runs alongside him.
“I always like doing it with her because she’s always out of breath and I get some words in,” says Dr. Erasmus with a grin.
Originally from South Africa, Dr. Erasmus and his family came to Provost 23 years ago, after a five year stop in Unity, Saskatchewan.
“For me it was this big adventure,” says his spouse, Antoinette Erasmus. “I remember that year, it started snowing on the 16th of October and I was so excited. I’m not [excited] anymore [when it snows in October].”
Before Dr. Erasmus arrived, Provost was in dire need of doctors. Several physicians had just left and there was only one doctor remaining, a precarious situation for the health of the community.
“If he [the remaining physician] wanted a day off or got sick, it closed our emergency rooms,” says Ken Knox, who was mayor at the time.
He was a great mentor, always making sure that we focused on the patient and were an advocate for the patient. – Leslie Hunter, Care Manager, Provost Home Care.
Once Dr. Erasmus started practising in Provost, it didn’t take long for him to make a favourable impression.
“The first time I went there, I wanted to see a doctor right now,” says Allan Murray, Reeve, MD of Provost. “And I go in there, and for the first 10 minutes he was more interested in who I was, where I lived, what I did, those kind of things. I’d never had that before. And it was just like, ‘wow, this is different’.
“Dr. Erasmus came to Provost the first year I was in nursing,” says Leslie Hunter, Care Manager, Provost Home Care. “I was new. I was young and I was quite overwhelmed at times. He was a great mentor, always making sure that we focused on the patient and were an advocate for the patient.”
After his morning run, Dr. Erasmus does rounds at the Provost Healthcare Centre, then he walks next door to the Provost Medical Centre where he spends the day seeing patients.
He is also a GP – Anaethesist and does obstetrics. Some of the babies that he delivered when he first arrived, are now having babies of their own.
He has eagerly shared his knowledge with the many med students he has mentored over the years.
“I learn a lot from students,” he says. “It keeps me on my toes. I have to think before I just do something because they are going to ask me why.”
Sherilea Scheidt, RN, Provost Primary Care Network, adds “He just doesn’t introduce them to rural medicine. He introduces them to the rural lifestyle.”
They [seniors at Hillcrest Lodge] all just love him. – Annette Gregory, Manager & CAO, Hillcrest Lodge.
He has also been active in recruiting doctors to Provost. Canadian trained Dr. Renee Deagle was one of those students who did a residency with him. She recently returned to practise here.
22 years ago, Dr. Erasmus convinced his good friend Dr. Stephan Malan to come from South Africa to practise in Provost.
“Great guy. Lots of fun together,” adds Dr. Malan, who was eager to share a funny story about Dr. Erasmus’s voracious appetite.
Many years ago, the two worked together at the Kalafong Hospital in South Africa.
“Every lunch time or tea-time, they served little sandwiches there as a treat,” begins Dr. Malan. “The talk in the whole hospital was you can go and have a sandwich provided that Dr. Erasmus wasn’t there yet. Otherwise when he got in there, he’s like a vacuum cleaner.”
Dr. Erasmus replies, “I’ve been around Stephan Malan enough years to know that if I don’t eat quickly, then he’s going to eat it, so I have to be smarter than he is.”
Dr. Erasmus is a regular visitor to Hillcrest Lodge. The faces of the seniors who reside there light up when they see him.
“He truly is compassionate and caring when it comes to taking care of them,” says Annette Gregory, Manager & CAO, Hillcrest Lodge. “And, they all just love him.”
“My wife always says it’s just the old ladies and the kids that like me,” jokes Dr. Erasmus.
And I think we’ve got such a blessing to do this job. I mean what other job can you help people the whole day, and be of service to people, and make their lives better. – Dr. Deon Erasmus
Back in 2005, he noticed that an unusually large number of seniors were coming to emergency, being admitted to hospital, or were on the waiting list for long term care.
So, he organized a workshop and brought in geriatric experts. That led to the creation of a geriatric working group which included dietitians, physiotherapists, pharmacists, homecare nurses, and physicians.
The goal was to recognize health problems sooner and treat them before they become so serious that the senior has to go to the hospital.
The results have been incredible.
“The emergency visits from people in the lodge went down considerably,” says Dr. Erasmus. “The hospital stays went down considerably. The average age in the lodge also went up considerably.”
“It’s a fantastic program,” says Gregory.
Dr. Erasmus is still as passionate as ever to be practising as a rural physician.
“The one thing that I expect is to always care about the people we deal with,” says Dr. Erasmus.
“And I think we’ve got such a blessing to do this job. I mean what other job can you help people the whole day, and be of service to people, and make their lives better. I mean you can’t get a better job than that.”
Congratulations to Dr. Deon Erasmus. the 2019 recipient of the RhPAP Rhapsody Physician Award of Distinction.