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From Barcelona to the Bay of Plenty

08 Sep 2021 | News
Tauranga Harbour.

Working long hours in Spain, Claudia Gomez Fernandez needed a break. She found it in New Zealand, and six years on she's still enjoying the lifestyle working as a GP down under offers. As clinical director of a professional clinic environment, Claudia can manage her own work day, delivering quality patient care while still having time to paddle board in Tauranga Harbour. Claudia travelled halfway round the world to find the work-life balance she craved, and she’s not leaving any time soon.

Claudia Gomez Fernandez isn’t one to shy away from a challenge. But when the Dominican Republic-born GP found herself working across three hospitals in Barcelona with no time to relish the lifestyle Spain’s architectural capital offered, she knew it was time for a change.

That change took her to the other side of the world, literally. To Kaitaia in New Zealand’s Northland region.

The sub-tropical climate and slower-paced lifestyle Northland offered was the break Claudia needed, but her one-year sabbatical quickly turned into much longer. “I really fell in love with New Zealand and my Northland family. The community welcomed me, I was able to take weekly te reo (Māori language) classes, and care for the local population. I ended up staying for two and a half years.”

An ambitious medico as well as an adventure seeker, Claudia left Northland and worked as a locum for one a half years before finding her next community to settle in.

Today, as clinical director of Tokoroa Medical Centre in the picturesque South Waikato, Claudia has found a supportive and innovative working environment, where quality patient care isn’t just a focus, it’s a deliverable.

Furthermore, she can care for patients while enjoying the lifestyle New Zealand has to offer. “I’ve got the work/life balance I didn’t have in Spain, and a professional clinic environment where I’m both challenged (in a good way), and supported. The team here is incredibly diverse. We have staff from Belgium, the Seychelles and the Philippines as well as New Zealand. It’s more like a family.”

Claudia’s patient population is categorised as highneeds but Claudia and the team collaborate with other community health and wellbeing providers to deliver holistic patient care. Furthermore, she has the support of the wider Primary Health Care Ltd (PHCL) network of clinics across New Zealand’s North Island, support which has proved invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a PHCL clinic, we’re not working in isolation. In addition to the daily huddles we have as a team, we’re connected with other clinics, enabling us to share ideas and resources, ask questions and generally support each other.”

It’s a lifestyle that enables Claudia to enjoy the best of all worlds. Delivering quality patient care that’s not just sustainable for her patients, but for herself as a GP. And, when she’s not seeing patients, she’s enjoying all New Zealand has to offer, whether it’s on a paddle board or in hiking shoes.