Out of practice, couple normal folk

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“Just call us Bonnie and Maarten when you see us in the supermarket,” say Roxburgh’s new husband and wife general practitioners Dr Bonnie Zijsling and Dr Maarten de Krom.

The pair began working at Roxburgh Medical Centre last month .

They were keen to be part of the local community and not seen as doctors outside their working roles, Dr Zijsling said.

“For us it is really important to see if we can succeed here, if we can build a life just as Bonnie and Maarten.”

Both had great affection for New Zealand, and were delighted to be living and working in Central Otago.

Dr Zijsling grew up in the rural province of Drenthe in the northern part of the Netherlands.

Her “sweetest memories”of childhood were living in a small village.

“We had this tiny little cottage and we had a goat, two sheep and a little pony.”

A trip around the world while still a student included travelling to New Zealand.

“I thought, this is the most beautiful country I have ever encountered.”

A dream to live in New Zealand was then nurtured by Dr Zijsling while she completed her studies in the Netherlands.

Dr de Krom also came from a rural background, growing up in Maastricht in the southern part of the Netherlands.

The region boasted “the only mountain” in Holland, a modest 300m high, he said.

“It is a bit of a rural setting. I grew up near the forest and the farming industry.”

The couple met in the third year of their medical training.

When she met Dr de Krom, Dr Zijsling had already begun making plans to move to New Zealand.

“When I met Maarten I said ‘Gosh, I like you, but I’m going to New Zealand’.”

Budding romance might have ended at that point, but luckily his answer saved the day.

“He said ‘This is great, because I was thinking about that as well, so now we can go together’.”

Only three weeks after they met they were speaking to organisations in New Zealand, and a year later in 2013 they arrived in the country, spending two years travelling and working in communities including Whakatane, Levin, Opotiki, Motueka and Gore.

While working in Gore they would travel to Central Otago for weekend breaks.

“Every weekend was about the outdoors, just go hiking, tramping, everything,” Dr Zijsling said.

They found Central Otago “beautiful” and thought it would be an ideal place to live.

After spending three years back in the Netherlands, they found they missed the wilds of New Zealand, and were delighted when the opportunity at Roxburgh Medical Centre came up.

Just before they left the Netherlands they got married in a ceremony that was partly a wedding and partly a goodbye party for friends and family.

“It was a good way to do things before [coming to] New Zealand as a new starting point, now together as a married couple,” Dr de Krom said.

They enjoyed working together in the same practice, and valued being able to see each other during breaks.

Although they shared new ideas about innovations and treatments, patient confidentially was very important and they never discussed individual details with each other, Dr Zijsling said.

“What we do is talk about guidelines and possible treatments in a more general way.”

Outside of the practice they were keen to be seen as simply part of the community.

“When we get out of here then our own life starts,” Dr Zijsling said.

“I don’t want to be the doctor when I am in the supermarket, I want to be Bonnie and I want to say ‘Hi, how are you?'”

“Outside of the practice we are just Bonnie and Maarten and we’d like going fishing with you and be doing cool stuff.”

Roxburgh Medical Services Trust chairman John Pritchard said it had been a challenge in the past to secure doctors for Roxburgh.

“We made do with locums over quite a considerable period of time.”

The role would be a job share between the two doctors. The trust was “really excited” to have filled the position.

“It is one position but two people are doing the job and we’ve left it to them to work out how they undertake that in the practice.

“We are looking forward to the practice progressing with this couple along assisting us.”

The medical centre now had a full complement of staff, Mr Pritchard said.

“They are all working really, really well.”