Patients distraught 'lifesaving' and innovative exercise clinic could close
A man who lost 100 kilograms and a woman still alive in defiance of doctors' predictions are distraught a "lifesaving" programme could close.
Palmerston North clinic U-Kinetics helps people with serious heart problems, diabetes, respiratory disease and obesity learn to support their health through personalised exercise and lifestyle programmes.
Clients are referred from and funded by the MidCentral District Health Board and the centre is run as a training programme by UCOL on the polytechnic's premises. On Wednesday, UCOL confirmed it would not renew its contract with the programme.
The contract ends in December and the jobs of five staff could be affected.
Palmerston North man Petranoff Smith says current and former patients are afraid the centre will close at the end of the year because of UCOL's exit.
He credits U-Kinetics with saving his life, showing him how to fight back against obesity and cutting his weight down from 280 kilograms to 183kg in 2013 and 2014.
Smith was a keen rugby player, but after trouble healing a snapped achilles tendon, he plunged into a downward spiral of comfort food and no exercise, leading him to type 2 diabetes.
A threat from the doctor that a foot amputation was on the cards jolted him back into action, but at 280kg, knowing how to get started safely was not straightforward.
"When I walked in I was on crutches that were strengthened, because my legs couldn't hold my body. I had arthritis in my knees and hips.
"They started me on this arm machine and gave me 12 minutes, with a break each six minutes. I couldn't hold a conversation while I was doing it."
His health was carefully monitored as he worked out and, gradually, his exercise was increased
Smith doesn't think he would be here now if it wasn't for U-Kinetics and has been encouraged by the programme's staff to keep up his healthy living.
His wife Liz has ongoing nerve and mobility problems after recovering from partial paralysis from a serious fall, and also lives with type two diabetes and a knee injury.
She too was referred to the clinic and praises the staff's kindness and constructive approach, which helped her improve her mobility enough to go back to work.
Heather Miller is a current patient and is also worried the clinic will close at the end of the year.
She has end stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a serious illness of the airways that can't be cured and gets worse with time.
Six years ago, she was given one year life expectancy by her specialist. Three years ago, her condition was grim, but she was referred to U-Kinetics and she credits the staff's expertise with saving her life.
"I was getting quite breathless. I could only walk for about five minutes, then after 12 weeks [on the programme] I was much better.
"It keeps me going. It's kept me out of hospital for three years now."
Today, she is back to work and remains a private customer at U-Kinetics, which she said enables her to maintain her quality of life.
U-Kinetics is New Zealand's only centre specialising in "clinical exercise physiology" and has treated more than 1500 people since it opened in 2012.
MidCentral DHB spends about $150,000 a year through U-Kinetics and it was too soon to say if funding would continue, spokesman Dennis Geddis said.
The DHB would first "look at options for meeting the needs of people requiring this service", chief executive Kathryn Cook said.
"The unique qualities of U-Kinetics have benefited many people and we believe clinical exercise physiology is a developing profession for which there is a growing need as the population ages and more people are living with long term health conditions."
Other exercise and physical activity programmes available in the DHB area include the Green Prescription service and Central PHO Physical Activity Educators, Cook said.
U-Kinetics staff referred requests to comment to UCOL.