Free gym deal aims to get patients fit for surgery

Fraser Health partners up with Steve Nash clubs for pilot project

Fraser Health patients waiting for surgery are being offered free workouts through a partnership with a chain of fitness gyms.

Patients referred by their surgeon now get five weeks free access to Steve Nash Fitness World and two one-hour sessions with a private trainer.

The idea is patients who get fit before they go under the knife tend to get out of hospital faster with fewer complications and ultimately cost the health care system less money.

“They tend to mobilize faster, recover faster after surgery and have lower incidence of complications like pneumonia, clots in their leg or other wound complications,” said Dr. Peter Blair, the health authority’s program medical director for surgery.

He said pre-op fitness is particularly important for abdominal surgery, joint replacements and major chest surgery.

But doctors’ advice is often ignored.

“For 30 years I’ve been asking people to lose weight before surgery without very much success,” he said.

Blair hopes the gym access inspires patients to do better.

There’s no cost to Fraser Health – yet.

Blair said he approached the Steve Nash clubs, which volunteered to donate access for a six-month pilot project.

After that, the health authority will reassess whether to negotiate a permanent, possibly paid arrangement with the chain.

“If it turned out we were able to show a big net savings in terms of money saved by virtue of improved outcomes, it could be a good business case to go ahead and pay for the program,” Blair said.

Meanwhile, the company gets publicity and a chance to impress potential future customers.

Eight of the Steve Nash chain’s 17 Lower Mainland locations are in the Fraser Health region.

But patients in cities like Chilliwack face a lengthy commute to take advantage of the offer – the easternmost Nash location is in Langley.

Blair said Fraser Health could potentially partner with different gyms if the pilot project is a success.