Deborah Hunter – Workhealth Australia And Rusden Street Physio

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Deborah Hunter, who is the CEO and Principal Physiotherapist for award-winning businesses WorkHealth Australia and Rusden Street Physio. Today’s interview will focus on one of these businesses, WorkHealth Australia.

And it is with great pleasure Business Minds can announce that effective 6 March 2017, WorkHealth Australia is an approved Workplace Rehabilitation Provider.

Can you tell us about your background?

I grew up in Sydney and trained as a physiotherapist at UNSW and Sydney Uni. I worked at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, London, for five years and then Katherine for eleven years. I moved here in 2005 and worked at the hospital, UNE and here. I currently teach first and second year medical students at the university.

What brought you to Armidale?

Katherine was pretty isolated and my children were reaching high school age, and I wanted them to have broader experiences that a remote location wasn’t able to offer. Armidale has proven to be the perfect springboard for us all.

As an already successful business, what has driven you to expand year on year and start a complementary business?

We are living longer, and we are being asked to work longer. There is such a need for people to understand and manage their own health at home and in the workforce. It’s absolutely critical we keep the health dollar down and of course, maintain a quality of life for the individual. Both businesses are focused on helping people stay healthy as they age and in the workforce.

As a practitioner, I was seeing a lot of preventable work injuries and as Rusden Street Physio was expanding, I had a very skilled staff member with significant experience and a particular interest in this area, Liz Maertin, join the practice. It became apparent to me that there was real need for a Workplace Rehabilitation Provider in the area, as Service Providers were being required to travel in and out of the area. This not only presented a real market opportunity, but was perfectly aligned with my passion for prevention and my philosophy of moving better for life.

So what does WorkHealth Australia do?

The underlying philosophy of “moving better for life” drives both my businesses. WorkHealth Australia specifically focuses on injury prevention and rehabilitation in the workplace.

We partner with employers to improve the health and wellbeing of their staff through workplace/worksite assessments and advice, safety consulting, manual handling, physiotherapy intervention, pre-employment and return to work services, and clinically based wellness programs. We help business improve their bottom line by reducing business risk and insurance costs and improving employee productivity.

What does a Rehabilitation Provider do?

A Workplace Rehabilitation Provider assists an injured worker back into the workplace. They are generally clinically trained, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and nurses. They help coordinate services to assist the worker return to work. They sit between the employer, the injured worker, the insurance company and treating health care professionals, coordinating all those services.

Your approval as a Rehabilitation Provider represents a significant expansion for allied health in the area. What does it mean for Armidale?

There is no other Workplace Rehabilitation Provider located in the Armidale region. It is not only good for the injured worker, but it is really good for business. Having the resources and expertise locally, we will be able to help injured workers and employers more quickly, enabled by proximity of our services. Another benefit is that by being located in the Armidale area, you are not paying for travel time, which is current standard practice.

How difficult was it to become a Rehabilitation Provider?

The approval process is overseen by the State Insurance Regulatory Authority, and it goes without saying they have strict criteria that must be met. Organisations must be skilled, have good governance and have proven to be ethical. Extensive documentation is required to be completed and supporting evidence provided for review. 

What was the most challenging part of the application process?

The length of time involved, combined with the challenges of running both Rusden Street Physio and WorkHealth Australia. And of course, Rusden Street is expanding, and I have been overseeing the hire of new staff and a relocation to larger premises.

What would you advise a business just starting out?

Be passionate, and there is no perfect time. If you have a great idea, do something about it.

How do you run two demanding businesses?

You have to have excellent staff, good systems in place, and really good communication is critical. I think it is important to recognise the skills you have and bring in the skills you need, whether it is through hiring the right staff or outsourcing to external providers. I currently, and very successfully, outsource my Human Resources, Marketing and IT functions. You need to free yourself up to focus on your core business.

What are the biggest challenges that lie ahead?

Managing two growing businesses, a significant increase in staff, and putting in the systems and processes that will support the businesses’ continued growth.   

Congratulations on your success on obtaining Workplace Rehabilitation Provider status and thank you, Deb.

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