A Penetanguishene doctor has been nationally recognized for his contributions to rural medicine.

Dr. Gerhard Badenhorst, the co-founder of the Bayside Medical Centre in Penetanguishene with his wife Dr. Christine Blom, won a Rural Service Award from the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada in April.

“I prefer rural. I’ve always worked rurally. It’s a rewarding way to practise medicine,” said Badenhorst.

Badenhorst and Blom, both anesthesiologists, moved to Tiny Township in 2003. They purchased the 3 Beck Blvd. building did a complete renovation before opening it in May 2005.

The centre has three surgeons, three family physicians, Badenhorst, Blom and a support staff of six. It’s the only clinic of its kind in town.

Badenhorst, 52, practises anesthesia at the Georgian Bay General Hospital and Waypoint Centre for Mental Health. He also does pain management and is a family physician who does in-patient care. Ninety per cent of his practice is with anesthesia and pain treatments.

“For me, the biggest draw card is doing anesthesia at the hospital,” he said.

Winning the award shows that someone appreciates the different type of practice that is worked in a small town versus a big city, he said.

One of the biggest differences is the commitment to on-call hours in addition to the day practice.

Badenhorst and Blom are on-call seven to nine days a month each for 24-hour periods.

“We make a huge after-hour investment,” he said.

“It’s definitely worthwhile because it gives us the opportunity to practise the medicine we want to and because it’s a smaller community, it’s much more personal.

“We work in a hospital where there is seven in my department so you get to know everybody. It becomes like a little family, which is very satisfying.

“The other surgeons and family physicians are a great group of people,” he said.

Badenhorst said the support staff at the clinic and in the hospitals make a huge different.

“The main thing that makes my life doable is the staff we work with at the hospital, the OR (operating room), the outpatient clinic and Waypoint. We are very lucky at the clinic to have exception staff. Without that, nothing works,” he said.

Originally from South Africa, Badenhorst and Blom have encouraged other doctors to set up practices locally.

“A lot of the South African doctors that have come to town is because of connections we had. We were the first ones to come,” he said.