16 February 2020

Southside hydrotherapy alternative found as Canberra Hospital pool set to close

| Dominic Giannini
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Aqua Harmony in Kambah

Aqua Harmony in Kambah will host hydrotherapy sessions following the closure of the pool at Canberra Hospital. Photo: Aqua Harmony Facebook.

The ACT Government will provide $305,000 for hydrotherapy sessions in Canberra’s south following the decision last year to close the hydrotherapy pool at the Canberra Hospital (TCH).

The government has announced an alternative location in Kambah after months of criticism from southside Canberrans who were unable to make the trip to the University of Canberra Hospital pool for hydrotherapy treatment.

While not everyone is happy with the move, ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith says that the three-year funding agreement with Arthritis ACT will provide an additional 688 hydrotherapy sessions a year at Aqua Harmony with two qualified staff members in attendance.

“We know this has been a long process and a lot of work has been done to reach an agreement with Arthritis ACT on an appropriate alternative to the Canberra Hospital pool,” said Ms Stephen-Smith.

“I recognise that not everyone will be happy with this outcome, but I am pleased that we have been able to find a path forward and provide certainty in relation to short-term arrangements.

“We have worked very closely with Arthritis ACT to find the most practical solution. This new agreement ensures services will be provided in a safer and more reliable facility while we work towards a longer-term solution.”

The funding is on top of the $240,000 that Arthritis ACT receives each year to provide community services, including 614 hydrotherapy sessions.

CEO of Arthritis ACT Rebecca Davies says that while this is a short-term measure, the community is happy to finally have some stability surrounding the move.

“It has been a really difficult period but it is nice that we have finally found a resolution. I am very excited to know that our members and anyone else that needs to access hydrotherapy on the south side of Canberra will be able to do so,” Ms Davies said.

“The majority are really pleased to have some certainty, that has been the biggest worry for them. A lot of them are quite elderly and certainty is an important thing for them.

“There are some who are still quite upset as they would like to stay at Canberra Hospital pool and we will just continue to work with those people and bring them across and hopefully show our ongoing care and compassion.”

ACT Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith

ACT Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith says the new funding will allow classes to continue at southside locations. Photo: File.

Around 500 people are still using TCH pool, with 100 of these people visiting in excess of three to four times a week, Ms Davies said.

Arthritis ACT has 1,500 Canberrans using their services across four pools.

“We have been running both instructor-led classes at TCH pool and self-led classes,” she said.

“By far, most people who come to us are self-led exercisers so we really just hold the pool open for them and make sure they are safe and they do their exercises themselves. That is mostly what we will do at Aqua Harmony, it is a pool that most benefits that type of exercise. We are then using the Learn to Swim pool in Calwell where we will do a bit more of the instructor-led classes so people on the southside can continue to access that if they prefer.

“That will meet the needs of both groups of people that we have been dealing with at TCH pool.”

Ms Stephen-Smith said the ACT Health Directorate was still assessing whether or not it would be feasible to build a southside hydrotherapy pool in the medium to long term.

“The government has currently been undertaking an expression of interest process with private and non-profit organisations to see what interest there is in partnering with us for the delivery of a public hydrotherapy pool which would be community-based in the south of Canberra,” she said.

An alternative hydrotherapy pool in Canberra should be community-based, not based at a hospital.

“Those expressions of interests closed [on 14 February] and I am really looking forward to seeing what interest we got.

“Alongside that, we have also been doing work internally to look at what alternatives there might be for the government directly building and delivering a public hydrotherapy pool.”

The Canberra Hospital pool will close on 29 February and services at Aqua Harmony in Canberra will begin on 2 March.

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