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opening Medical Wellness

In a bid to gain the trust of the medical community, and break traditional penetration and retention rates, MedFit has introduced the European model of physiotherapy clinic-meets-gym to its home town of Dublin


t was disillusionment that drove Barry Walsh and John Murphy to create Medfit Wellness and Rehabilitation in Dublin –

disillusionment at the lack of respect they felt the medical community had for the fitness industry, and a desire to improve its credibility. “I’ve been perplexed as to why the

fi tness industry hadn’t been utilised more by medical professionals,” says Walsh. “Speaking to GPs, they think it’s an unregulated industry with such a varying degree of qualifi cations that, even though they agree that fi tness is important and can help treat many conditions, they don’t think it’s credible enough to refer on their clientele. You can’t help but take it very personally. “I’m very passionate about our

industry and feel we have a wonderful opportunity to improve people’s lives.” Walsh, a former manager for both

David Lloyd Leisure and Westwood, now runs the successful 1escape city centre fitness club in Dublin, as well as Medfit, and is vice president of the Irish Fitness Federation and vice president of ILAM (the Irish leisure industry body). Likewise Murphy, one of Ireland’s

leading chartered physiotherapists, was 34

frustrated. Even though he did refer his patients on to a gym, the connection between the two services was poor.

“Either my patients just didn’t go, or they went once and didn’t like it, or they went a few times but lost motivation because the gym didn’t capture them. More often than not, they’d end up back on my physio table within six months,” he says.

the vision Walsh and Murphy are friends – football

buddies of 12 years. They had been knocking about the idea of combining their experience for some time, based on disgruntled conversations about the seeming inability of their professions to work together. Eventually they decided to give it a go and set out on a research mission, visiting successful integrated clubs in Germany and researching other models internationally. “We visited these amazing rehab

clinics based in hospitals which were also public gyms. One, in Munich, had a full rehabilitation programme, a pool, a rehab pool, physiotherapists, sports scientists and a fully operational gym for the general public,” says Walsh. “The GPs and surgeons in Germany have a lot more faith in fi tness, especially

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in the sports scientists, and they actually work together to develop programmes to treat patients. Post-operative patients there were seen by the fi tness team. “This relationship and level of trust is

what we want to bring to Ireland and the UK. At the moment, there’s a huge volume of work the industry has to do to bridge this gap. When Nuffi eld took over Cannons, I thought that might be the start of a change and REPs is defi nitely a stepping stone – at least now we have a minimum level of qualifi cation. But I’d like to see this whole area progressing.”

the offering Medfit opened in February of this year, in

a 372sq m (4,000sq ft) converted office building on a business park. Its location was carefully picked for its proximity to two of Ireland’s largest private hospitals

– to be near the medical professionals Walsh and Murphy hope to win over. Its offering is essentially a

rehabilitation spinal centre combined with a public gym, offering a hi-tech solution for both – they use a David circuit on the medical side and a milon circuit in the gym (more detail later). Says Murphy: “For our physio clients, we conduct very detailed

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