Jan Summersides, Mercer Celgar's on-site Physiotherapist, working with mill employees in Castlegar, BC, Canada

Improving Livelihoods with Physiotherapy – Whole Health at Mercer Celgar

Whole health. It is a concept that many understand, but few companies embrace in their workplace. At Mercer Celgar, we have created and supported an innovative whole health workplace solution focused on ergonomics and physiotherapy for our team members for over 10 years. Physiotherapy involves clinical assessments, manual therapies, and prescriptive exercises in order for an individual to be able to return to work. After observing World Physical Therapy day on September 8, we take this opportunity to recognize the work that physiotherapists do for their patients and community – especially for us at Celgar.

Our program is led by a highly qualified and experienced physiotherapist, Jan Summersides, with assistance from a second physiotherapist who works with us part-time, Erin Campbell. While other organizations often depend upon external resources to help them facilitate a healthy workplace, we believe that the value of having a physiotherapy program in-house is immeasurable for those who are able to enjoy their lives without pain or discomfort.

We first approached Jan in 2009 to work within our mill environment to provide ergonomic and physiotherapy support. While other organizations depend upon external resources to help them facilitate a healthy workplace, we looked at the cost versus value for employees who were absent or not able to fully function in their role, investing our resources from there. Through an onsite physiotherapist, we have realized improved costs and performance; the value is boundless for those who are able to live freely without pain or discomfort. 

After suffering a life-threatening stroke, Mercer Celgar’s Wayne Salekin was forced to learn how to walk again. Physiotherapy visits with Jan and utilizing her recommended resources, such as massage, played an instrumental role in Wayne’s recovery. With her help, Wayne was walking again within 8 months after his stroke. 

“She is the best in BC,” he says, “She changes lives. Jan helped me recover from my stroke completely in all areas of my body, including my face. I am grateful to have access to someone as knowledgeable and skilled as her.”

“Jan is a highly skilled, motivated physiotherapist who gives extra at any time.” says Dragan Trivanovic, another of our many team members who have utilized her services, “We are very lucky to have her around us, helping us maintain our mobility and health at the highest possible level.”

Dragan came to Jan with growing back pain, only to soon find out after visiting Jan that the root cause of the problem wasn’t his back at all: it was his right knee. Dragan was able to take this information and recommendations from Jan to his doctor to figure out an appropriate rehabilitation plan. “My family doctor accepts Jan’s recommendations without question. Her support is critical in order to speed up the process of recovery from our injuries or to help us find out what is the root cause of our health issues,” Dragan adds.

 Jan estimates that she has prevented the equivalent of 7 full-time staff being off work, equating to approximately $150,000 per person – per year. Jan’s only barrier is time, as she sees an average of 100 – 130 visits per month, with a waitlist. This knowledge enabled us to utilize an additional casual physiotherapist to assist Jan in her off time – Erin Campbell.

With a fully outfitted treatment room comprised of physiotherapy equipment (including 2 bikes, a treadmill, elliptical machine, squat rack, balance boards, bands for mobilizing, and more), Jan and Erin ensure that our team members receive proactive health interventions and training, whether work or non-work related. They accomplish this by focusing on ergonomics, functional capacity evaluations, and workplace return-to-work treatment plans – helping restore optimal body mobility and strength necessary for job functions.

We understand that the success of the program is heavily attributed to Jan and Erin. They have been instrumental in proactively promoting health and well-being in the Celgar environment to improve the safety, comfort, and performance amongst team members. Through her leadership and involvement, Jan has helped reduce the cost of work-relevant absences through onsite treatment and has helped to improve productivity, performance, and morale. We would like to recognize them for the difference they make in our team members’ lives at the mill and at home.