Wānaka Sun       

In physiotherapy for life, despite the coronavirus set-back

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 07 May, 2020 | By Pat Deavoll editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

Ginni Rutlledge is a Wānaka long-stayer who has been working in the town as a physiotherapist since the late 80s. She talks to the Wānaka Sun about her career, how coronavirus has affected her business and life in general.

So how has Wānaka Physiotherapy coped with the effects of coronavirus?

Coronavirus has been tough for us – a different kind of challenge. It was so unexpected, and there was no way I could prepare for it. Usually, you can put the finger on a problem, but not this. It's nobody's fault.

I had to say goodbye to five of my staff who have been with me for years. We don't have a high turnover of staff at Wānaka Physio. They were family and so qualified, and they'd come and live in our house and look after our dog. We'd play together and bike together and they'd go to the Olympics as physios- they were highly qualified.

It must have been very tough laying off staff?

Yes but I just don't have the work for them. We are in a drought, and it has been such a challenge. You have to treat it like a drought where the sheep are just sitting on the paddock, but when it rains, you have to let the grass grow before you can get going again. My husband Dan (Rutlledge) has been such a rock- he has been amazing. But we are no different from anyone else in town, and we will get back on our feet.

The thing is with the staff I had to let go, they are amazing people and made it so easy for me. I would re-employ all of them in a heartbeat; it's just that for now if we don't make the break we are unfair not allowing them to go and find something else in the meantime.

So what is the history of Wānaka Physiotherapy?

I arrived in Wānaka in the late 80s as a physio. I had been skiing but had just wrecked my knee. They had speed skiing in the upcoming Olympics, and I was trying to get on the team but got this injury. I was rehabbing in Wānaka with my parents and started as a locum at Wānaka Physio for Ruth Hunt two days a week. I stayed on as that locum and eventually bought the practice. It was in the medical centre in Russell Street back then. Over time I bought the house two doors down and had a little clinic there. Then in 2011, I moved to the Lake Wānaka Health Centre, of which we are incredibly proud.

It must be great to have such a premise?

We moved from Russell St in about 2011 to the Wānaka Lakes Health Centre, which was an exciting time because it was a big deal for a physio clinic to shift into an environment like that. The joy of that place has been the beautiful people - doctors, admin, cafe staff. It's been a wonderful thing for the Wānaka community, and Dan and I were part of the start-up of this.

Tell us about your husband, Dan?

Dan was a farmer when we got married, and when he moved to Wānaka, it was what to do, what to do? We weren't in the financial position or age bracket to go back into farming, so Dan started in real estate. He does enjoy this – mainly rural residential, but now he can sell anything. He has been excellent at the Health Centre because his background was in accounting initially. He has a good financial head.

He is working for Sotheby's Real Estate – and is also very much beside me in the Wānaka Physiotherapy business as although we are in the Health Centre, we own the physio clinic.

What is it with physios in your family?

Interestingly my mother, who is now 85, has just given up her physio licence. I think she was the oldest physio in New Zealand. She only sold her practice five years ago and has been working as a locum since and a busy one. She stopped because my father wanted to go skiing and she was always working. He is 90 and still ski races. Mum had to give up her licence because she couldn't go on ski holidays with him down to Wanaka.

My brother Anthony is also a physio, and he came to the 2010 Olympics with me – we were part of the team as physios- and he has a practice in Christchurch. He owned Queenstown Physiotherapy and then went to Australia with his wife and young children, and they have just recently moved back to NZ.

So tell us the history of your famous knee?

I got a knee injury in the late eighties. The history of my knee has been interesting. I was ski-guiding at the time at the Remarkables, and I was in that lifestyle bracket where I was very much into sport, very much in a personal way. I was hit badly by that injury- it didn't do well, and there were a lot of complications. I went on to have six surgeries, but I still haven't had a knee replacement.

But the important take-home message for me when I look back on it is the timing. The timing is what we see in young sportspeople who are doing their best at a high-performance level who get an injury and how challenging it is for them mentally. I'm sitting here at the grand old age of 57, and I still have a wrecked knee, but I have a happy wrecked knee, I can handle it. But at the time it's the complications you have with your mental life and your social life – everything around you seems to fall to pieces, and things seem incredibly wrong. These days I am just glad not to have cancer. But when you are in your early 20's it is way different.

My whole life as a physiotherapist I have specialised in these sports types of injuries and the arthritic knee. I do have empathy for young people, particularly in the high sporting arena, who go through these injuries, and it breaks my heart to see them because I know that feeling.

You must have seen a lot of change in Wānaka over the years?

I don't want to be political, but there are some things in Wānaka I love, especially the power of the community and the fight people have to protect this beautiful place. Things that make me very sad include the subdivision in Northlake where young families all shifted there very excited about the green areas, and these have been taken away from them.

I love Wānaka, and it would be a challenge to live anywhere else, and I don't take it for granted living here - I appreciate it every single day. I spend two months of the year working with the USA ski team offshore on the world cup circuit, and Europe is hectic and exhausting. Then you come back to little Wānaka, and you just go, wow!

Read edition 973 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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