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Whistler Physiotherapy Group acquired by LifeMark Health

Sale will allow local owners to extend hours, add programs and services


The Whistler Physiotherapy Group, which was co-owned by Susie Mortensen and Marilyn Hellier, has been acquired by Calgary-based LifeMark Health.

“Marilyn and I looked at our whole business plan and decided we had to get smaller to improve service or get bigger to grow the company,” Mortensen said.

“We decided to get partners.

“We approached LifeMark and they jumped at the opportunity to come to Whistler.”

“We are very pleased to bring the Whistler Physiotherapy Group into the LifeMark family,” LifeMark CEO Craig Gattinger said in a release issued Friday. “We are constantly looking to acquire organizations that demonstrate strong leadership, quality of service, and that are located in a geographical area that will strengthen our national client service capabilities.”

LifeMark operates more than 50 clinics across Canada and describes itself as “Canada’s largest full service provider of integrated rehabilitation services and patient care products.”

Founded by Mortensen in 1981, the Whistler Physiotherapy Group includes three clinics in Whistler and Highland Sport & Spine Physiotherapy in Garibaldi Highlands. Whistler Physiotherapy’s four clinics employ approximately 35 physiotherapists, registered massage therapists and administrative staff.

Mortensen said LifeMark is owned by physiotherapists and “is a pretty incredible company.”

“We have been approached by business in the past who weren’t run by physios, and we declined.

“We’re quite excited about this. Hopefully it will help us with labour issues. They have a large teaching and training network for staff and very advanced billing and administrative systems.”

Being part of LifeMark will eventually mean the local clinics can extend their hours of operation and offer more programs and services.

Mortensen added: “At the end of the day, this new association allows us to focus on growing our clinics while providing our customers with a higher level of patient care. The move will also remove the administrative workload from Marilyn who can now focus exclusively on providing hands on customer care. Meanwhile, I will continue to spearhead the manageable growth of our clinics and provide expertise in custom bracing and splinting for our customers.”

Mortensen has been a physiotherapist to the Canadian Alpine Ski Team as well as Chief Therapist for the Canadian Freestyle Ski Team. Most recently, she was appointed as the Alpine Venue Therapy Manager for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Hellier is the Director of Physiotherapy for the Canadian Snowboard Federation and is a lead therapist for the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association and the B.C. Freestyle Ski Association. She was also selected as designated physiotherapist for both the CSF and CFSA at the 2006 Torino Olympic Winter Games.

Mortensen started Whistler Physiotherapy after graduating from UBC with her physiotherapy ticket. She was living in Whistler, contemplating her next career step, when former resident Rick McCarthy blew out his knee while skiing. Faced with commuting to Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver for physio sessions, McCarthy sought out Mortensen for treatments. With no equipment or office space Mortensen was invited by Dr. Rob Burgess — the only doctor in town at the time — to share his office, a trailer next to the Carleton Lodge.

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