New doctor means Slave Lake Hospital can offer c-sections and plans to add more

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

Dr. Nicholaas Lerm and his wife Chandré, moved to Slave Lake in September.

Dr. Lerm is an anesthesiologist which was the missing link to reopen the operating room at the Slave Lake Hospital.

There are three obstetricians, “baby doctors”, in Slave Lake. However, until recently Slave Lake didn’t have an anesthesiologist, so cesarean sections (c-sections) and other operations weren’t possible. This meant some women had to go out of town to have their babies.

With Dr. Lerm joining the team in Slave Lake, the OR is open.

“I’m happy the OR is running,” Dr. Lerm says. “Obstetrics is all ready to go.” This includes c-sections.

Offering c-sections is the first step in a longer process to offer more surgeries at the hospital.

In November, the is to plan add dental surgery.

In the new year, the OR will expand to include things like scopes and smaller surgeries.

Dr. Lerm will also be working in the Family Care Clinic and is accepting patients.

“We’re (the Slave Lake doctors are) planning to have a more fixed team over the next few years,” Dr. Lerm says.

Dr. Lerm has been a doctor since 2012.

“I realized when I was in my final year of school, that that (medicine) was going to be my passion,” Dr. Lerm says. His father is a doctor. The last six months Dr. Lerm worked with his father in South Africa.

Dr. Lerm and Chandré are both Afrikaans, descendants of Dutch settlers to southern Africa in the 1600s.

Dr. Lerm is from, Jeffreys Bay, a small town on the coast of South Africa. It is the surf capital of South Africa. It is windy, with the wind starting at the same time every day.

When Dr. Lerm checked out Slave Lake many months ago, there was no wind, so he told Chandré that it wasn’t windy here. Since Chandré hates the wind, she was glad to hear this.

So far, Slave Lake hasn’t been windy, but this will likely change.

Chandré is from a smaller town in Namibia, which is a country northwest of South Africa.

Like Slave Lake, her home town is two and a half hours from the nearest city.

“Slave Lake wasn’t such a big shock for me,” Chandré says.

“I love Slave Lake,” Chandré says. “We’re excited to settle in.”

They met at Stellenbosch University in the Cape Winelands of South Africa.

“We’re wine lovers and foodies,” they both say.

Chandré is an occupational therapist (OT) and will soon be working toward getting her Canadian equivalency, so she can work here. She’s interested in working at the Slave Lake Family Care Clinic.

At the moment, there is only one OT, who mostly works with older people. Children are Chandré’s favourite group of patients. To work in Canada, she needs to do an equivalency interview and take the national exam, which is offered only twice a year.

Dr. Lerm and Chandré know lots of other South African doctors in Alberta. They came to Canada on July 8. They stayed with some friends in Lac La Biche for three weeks. The first week was beautiful summer weather. They tried wake boarding on the lake and loved it.

For six weeks, they were in Ft. McMurray for Dr. Lerm’s anaesthesiology assessment.

The first day they were in Slave Lake they went to Devonshire beach and crossed paths with a bear.

“We’re not familiar with any bear activity,” Dr. Lerm says. In the time it took him to turn toward Chandré to tell her to keep calm, she was half way back to the car.

There are wild animals in South Africa, says Chandré, “but they don’t walk so freely,” usually they are behind fences.

South Africa also doesn’t have winter, spring, summer or fall. It has the wet and dry season, like most of Africa. Dr. Lerm and Chandré are enjoying the autumn colours for the first time.

“Autumn is so distinct,” Chandré says.

Neither of them has seen snow. This is not for lack of travelling. After finishing medical school, Dr. Lerm worked in various parts of South Africa until 2017. Then he became a ship’s doctor on a cruise ship. For two years, the two of them travelled around Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. However, cruise ships only go to places in the summer.

Winter is going to be a new experience for them.

Their top three trips were to St. Petersburg, Russia, Japan, and Petra in Jordan. Moving to Canada added North America to the continents they’ve visited.

They’ve always wanted to see the northern lights and have downloaded a tracking app.

“We actually got to see it (the northern lights) in Lac La Biche,” Chandré says. “We’ve had a nice Canadian experience in such a short amount of time.”

Dr. Nicholaas Lerm and his wife Chandré.

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