30/06/2011 - 00:00

Compass points east to Qld coal

30/06/2011 - 00:00

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PARAMEDIC Christy Whitby says one of her motivations for starting Compass Health with Tony Metcalf in 2007 was the lack of support she felt during her time working on mine sites.

PARAMEDIC Christy Whitby says one of her motivations for starting Compass Health with Tony Metcalf in 2007 was the lack of support she felt during her time working on mine sites.

The Leederville-based company, which specialises in the supply of medical personnel to Western Australia’s resources sector, has come a long way since its early days in Mr Metcalf’s garage.

Along with recently offering its services into Queensland, Compass Health has secured contracts with Woodside, Chevron and Rio Tinto and has tripled its turnover year on year for the past three years.

Ms Whitby and Mr Metcalf said they saw a ‘hole in the market’ for a company that could provide and manage highly qualified paramedical, nursing and emergency response personnel for some of the state’s largest mining and oil and gas projects.

“As a medic you were sent up there with no support and there were no medical protocols in place, and coming from the background that I did you felt extremely exposed,” Ms Whitby told WA Business News.

“It was basically just labour hire, nobody actually cared about the product they were delivering.”

Having worked in sales and management roles with mining companies, Mr Metcalf would often hear his clients complain about the way medical services were being managed onsite.

“Clients were saying to me ‘it’s very nice for you to come in here and tell us how these medics on site should be running, but to tell you the truth the current company [they are working for] aren’t doing it properly’,” Mr Metcalf said.

Ms Whitby said that, more often than not, the companies supplying medical personnel were more focused on running a business than properly managing those staff onsite.

“It’s not just about supporting the clients out onsite and making sure that they have the best medical personnel with the highest qualifications, it’s about looking after our staff on a day-to-day basis ... and ensuring that they are not just a number,” she said.

With a handful of competitors offering similar services, Compass Health hires only the most experienced medical personnel.

“We are probably the only competitor in the market of St Johns that can actually supply paramedics at the same level,” Ms Whitby said.

“Our focus is on former on-road paramedics, registered nurses with ED mine site experience and ex-career fire fighters, whereas a lot of our competitors are going for ‘industrial medics’ where you can do a four-day course and call yourself one; and that lack of that true experience isn’t optimal on a mine site.”

Compass Health secured its first major contract with Hancock Prospecting at the start of 2008, but took a hit with the onset of the GFC.

“During the GFC, we lost about $2 million worth of work in 24 hours,” Mr Metcalf said.

At that stage the company was supplying medical personnel to the iron ore sector only, so the pair decided it was time to diversify and offer Compass’ services into other areas of mining and into the oil and gas sector.

In addition, requests by existing clients for Compass Health to provide its services in other parts of Australia led the company to expand into Queensland’s coal sector.

“We had to diversify ... when you have all your eggs in one basket it’s not necessarily a wise idea in business; we made the decision to look at clients in the oil and gas sector, which we’ve done and now, Queensland is the next step,” Ms Whitby said.

While the company has won more than $4.5 million worth of contracts with Rio Tinto in the past eight weeks, Ms Whitby and Mr Metcalf remain focused on maintaining a steady expansion strategy.

“It’s about knowing when to say ‘sorry we can’t take on any more contracts right now’,” Ms Whitby said.

“It’s hard to say no to clients, but sometimes you have to because so many people get greedy and expand too quickly and they are being reactive, and we don’t want to be reactive, we want to be proactive.”

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