Long-time UQHL participants will recognise a familiar face in the facility this week. We have welcomed back Simon Whitehart, experienced physiotherapist and the clinic’s founding manager to assist us during a period of transition. 

We took five with Simon to ask him a few questions about the benefits of his experience for our valued clients, and how he has expanded on his unique set of skills over the past 18 months.

Q: Simon, you took a secondment from Queensland Health to help us  transform UQHL from a concept to reality two years ago. What’s your fondest memory of that enormous undertaking?

My fondest memory is certainly seeing the facility coming to life with clients engaging and enjoying their experiences here. The mutual benefits of intergenerational interactions with the students were also special memories to treasure. From a personal note, my parents were also able to attend and being able to supervise some of their exercise sessions and spend some more time together was priceless.


Q: Returning to the facility now, how has the operation evolved? What’s changed?

On the surface the facility and experiences look very familiar and most importantly there are so many familiar and friendly faces amongst the clients. Whilst there has been some changes in the staff, there is a very strong clinical and reception team who are highly committed to every client’s health and wellbeing and experiences at UQ Healthy Living.

I do recognise, however, that a significant amount of work has been done behind the scenes in helping to improve the efficiency of the facility and I would like to make special mention to the contribution made by David during his time here at UQHL.


Q: You continued on with Queensland Health since we last saw you, in what capacity?

I’ve shared my time between Metro North​ sites, including coordinating  telehealth for their physiotherapy service during the pandemic, and converting all outpatient services to video conference. This mode of delivery promises to be a great way to improve patients’ access to care beyond the pandemic.

I’ve also been working in the the Office of the Chief Allied Health Officer contributing to models of advanced practice for allied health practitioners. This is also related to increasing opportunities for patients to see the right clinician at the right time.

During this time I’ve also begun my Masters in Leadership and Health Management and worked clinically, often on weekends in the RBWH Emergency Department and Orthopaedic wards.


Q: You have agreed to lend your expertise as caretaker until a permanent manager is appointed, what do you bring to the team and the clients? What can we all learn from you?

Coming back to the facility with a fresh (or refreshed) set of eyes grants me  the opportunity to take stock and focus on the original vision of the facility: promoting health and wellbeing in older adults, with services resourced by students, supervised by leading clinicians, and supported by cutting edge technology. I will support the team in their commitment to deliver quality care that considers the physical, mental and emotional health of our over 50s. 

The experiences I gained while helping to set up this facility will be enormously useful in guiding the alignment of the initial vision to current operations and beyond, as the team works towards an exciting expansion. The opportunities for this facility are significant, and the experiences of our clients here will go from strength to strength as they take control of their health with our support.


Q: What words of advice would you offer clients who have been hesitant to return to classes since we re-opened following lockdown?

Returning to the facility is a personal choice and we respect this.  It is fantastic to see a significant number of clients returning to classes and we look forward to a time when all our clients can join us again.

I want to reassure everyone that we remain committed to upholding excellent hygiene measures to protect our community, and appreciate our clients working with us in this shared responsibility. 

While we continue to regularly clean equipment, we ask clients returning to the facility do so on the understanding that they will be responsible for the cleaning of any equipment they use in between exercises, using the antiseptic wipes available . Staff on the floor will be ensuring that this occurs.

We encourage those still in isolation to please remain as socially connected as you can, we suggest joining our Facebook Group, calling a friend and reading our regular newsletter. Of course, of equal importance is remaining as active as possible until you return to classes. 


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