Rick and Jean Benham with their grandsons - the future of Vital Health.
Rick and Jean Benham with their grandsons - the future of Vital Health.

Vital Health celebrate thirty years in the bush

THIRTY years ago, Jean Benham started a small business with the vision to provide physiotherapy services to the community that raised her.

Since then, with help of family, passionate team members and the local community, Vital Health has expanded its allied health services in response to the growing needs of the bush.

You can now find centres right across Queensland including Charleville, St George, Dalby, Goondiwindi, Kingaroy and many more.

Rebecca Benham, Jean Benham, Harriet Chambers
Rebecca Benham, Jean Benham, Harriet Chambers

“I think being quite unique for rural communities and I believe we were the first service to deliver allied health, which is quite amazing that we could offer multidisciplinary services to small communities,” speech pathologist and manager Harriet Chambers said.

“We’re also proud of developing a local workforce that has provided a lot of career opportunities for people – we’re passionate about supporting people who grew up in bigger cities and have come here and can integrate and share their expertise.

“We have created an environment where we build and foster the love of rural therapy.”

Imogen Newton, Michaela Bates, Jessie Edwards, Teleigha Tucker, Deni Humphreys, Gabby Stanford.
Imogen Newton, Michaela Bates, Jessie Edwards, Teleigha Tucker, Deni Humphreys, Gabby Stanford.

Founder Jean Benham recounts the array of changes she has seen over the thirty years.

“Being thirty as a rural organisation is a reflection of the community support to ‘be’ a community service, so that also applies to what has changed – what the community needs is reflected in where the changes have been,” she said.

“In 1990, the referrals were delivered by mail to the postbox at the front, they were often unreadable and then when deciphered were often very prescriptive, for example ‘treat this patient with traction of 50lbs for twenty minutes, and ultra sound at 1 w/cmsq for five minutes repeat 3 times a week.

“In 2010, the referrals arrived in no less than 15 methods of delivery and before the end of 2020, most of the referrals will arrive with the patient or via a portal that delivers it straight into our software with all the high-level confidentiality.

“Also in 1990, many patients didn’t know what a physio did except ‘get you going after a stroke or beat your chest to fix a chest infection.

“Over the years, the GPs and the community were introduced to podiatry, Matty Edwards joined the physios around 1999.

“Then came dietitians, exercise physiologists around 2004 and soon after speechies, OT’s and in the last few years the mental health OT and psychologist joined.”

She said there’s been a shift where previously patients just wanted the patient to ‘fix’ something, now people want to be involved in their health.

“Members of southwest ring and ask for all kinds of support and wellness,” she said.

“Like complex chronic pain management, pelvic floor and incontinence care, mental health, sleep studies.

“Once, most patients just wanted to the physio to ‘fix’ something, like changing a sparkplug whereas now more people want to be involved in their health and are more informed and ask questions.”

She said in the early years, Aboriginal health was within mainstream only, now there are cultural specific and relevant services available.

“Everyone is pleased to see and be a part of this huge change,” she said.

She said while there are a few more general practitioners in Roma and the district now than in 1990, there are twenty times more allied health services across the whole community.


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