Subsidised therapeutic swims to benefit up to 450 patients

Up to 450 "at-risk patients" during the next three years will be able to get subsidised therapeutic relief at the CBay aquatic centre.

South Canterbury District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming said the initiative was a joint venture between the board and the district council.

"We hope this will become a long-term programme," Mr Fleming said.

"When I first came on board [as chief executive] about six years ago, there were a lot of discussions about the fact there were not enough adequate swimming facilities for our patients.

"The arrival of the new aquatic centre has changed that."

He said "at risk patients", on the suggestion of health professionals, could be selected for the programme.

"It covers a range of conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, those who require to lose weight for major surgery or have mental health issues," Mr Fleming said.

"The programme is subsidised, but there is some responsibility on the patients' behalf to attend the sessions regularly, perhaps at least two to three times per week."

However, physiotherapist Vanessa Waller said since the pilot programme was launched last month, many of the patients had used the aquatic centre every day.

"We've had a wide range of people participating, ranging from 10 months old all the way up to 70 years old," Ms Waller said.

"A lot of the therapy is self-directed, but carers are also allowed free entrance to the pool for the sessions."

Mr Fleming said up to 150 patients would be eligible for the programme every year during the next three years.

The initiative is believed to be one of the first of its kind in the country.

Timaru district councillor Damon Odey led the fundraising drive for the Caroline Bay Trust Aoraki Centre.

Cr Odey said the programme was a way of giving back to the community.

"Timaru has the highest proportion of over-65s in the country. When we were in initial talks about fundraising with the health board, we raised concerns about there not being enough facilities for the over-65s," he said.

The Timaru Herald