Katie Holland is the Rotorua Daily Post deputy editor

Spacious facility lets gym expand

A new public gym has opened at QE Health, with its spa next to receive an overhaul.

After years operating out of a small, cramped room in the historic lakefront building, clinical manager and fitness consultant Dr Aaron Randell was a happy man when the 236sq m gym opened for business this month.

"It's a million times better," he said.

And it is - occupying a light and airy space looking out on to the village green, with polished tawa floorboards that had been kept hidden under hospital linoleum.

The old gym was mainly used by in-patients with just a handful of members. Now membership stands at 160 and growing.

Dr Randell said 90 per cent of members were aged above 40, with the majority 50 plus.

"I have really made a push to have it as a normal functioning gym but still trying to keep the focus on tying it in with what the rest of the hospital does with rehab and keep that friendly feel, the non-threatening environment for people that have never been to the gym before."

So while he's keen to attract new members, Dr Randell won't be signing them up "left, right and centre" just for the sake of numbers.

"It's more the individual approach as opposed to trying to get massive numbers through," he said. "We walk in the gym and we know everybody and I think that's what makes us so popular and that's what we want to keep."

With the new facility, the gym has been able to expand its services, including working with the "Big Boys Club" - a group of 160-180kg men referred from Korowai Aroha.

Dr Randell is also working with diabetes experts to upskill his staff and develop specialist fitness programmes for diabetics.

The physiotherapy cubicles adjacent to the gym have been done up, and two more added, to cater for the increased demand since QE Health removed its surcharge for ACC patients.

In January renovations will start on the spa wing, with two more treatment rooms and a waiting room to be added as well as a major cosmetic overhaul, according to Mandy Godo from the spa's marketing team.

She said the services available at QE complemented each other well - with the spa, gym and physiotherapy services putting the focus firmly on health and wellbeing.

"The baby boomers, the 50 plus are much more aware of health maintenance, looking after your body so you've got the use of it later on."

QE Health general manager Peter Sharplin said the renovations had only been possible thanks to the support of local philanthropists. He said support had taken some of the pressure off, as previously money made by the spa, gym and physiotherapy businesses had been propping up the struggling multidisciplinary intensive rehabilitation (MIR) unit.

Meanwhile, Mr Sharplin remains hopeful a solution will be found to enable the MIR service to continue next year.

In October staff were told it could be forced to close by Christmas because of a funding shortfall, which would have resulted in the loss of about 30 jobs. However, after intervention by Rotorua MP Todd McClay, a decision was delayed while the Ministry of Health reviewed the unit.

Mr Sharplin said he expected to hear back from the ministry in the new year.

He said the perfect outcome would be the ministry awarding QE contracts for the treatment of elderly patients and patients with chronic pain and severe back pain from around the North Island.

Mr Sharplin said QE had recently signed a contract with Lakes District Health Board and the ministry to provide services to high needs young adults. The contract is worth $255,000 in its first year and $150,000 in future years, which was a "good start", he said.

He said two ministry experts had visited the hospital earlier this month.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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