Saturday, November 27

Physical Therapists Ask Why Retail Can Open In Step 2, But They Still Can’t Work

Patients suffer unnecessarily because some healthcare professionals are unable to provide care in person, under Level 3 restrictions, Allied Health professionals say.

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They call for restrictions to change so that more patients can access the ongoing care they need.

This comes as the government-introduced three-step off-restriction roadmap for Auckland sees retail stores and the zoo open before physios.

Physical therapist Katherine Forch said it wasn’t about the money, but about her patients.

Level 3 appointments for Allied Health services, such as Physical Therapists, Osteopaths, and Podiatrists, are primarily online or over the phone.

Some in-person appointments may be provided, but only for urgent care, and as long as physicians can take appropriate steps to manage public health.

Forch said she was concerned for her patients who suffer on a daily basis.

“You get these emails from people, you get phone calls. They want help, and if they don’t get it from their regular doctor, they start looking for other alternatives and they may go for something other than evidence.” -based, that does not necessarily have that understanding of risk mitigation and that is why you care about people and I know that I speak for my physiotherapist colleagues, it is not about the money at the moment ”.

While telehealth can be useful in some settings, online sessions pose an accessibility and privacy issue for many patients, he said.

“A guy, a couple of weeks ago, did an initial consultation with me sitting in his car in the McDonald’s parking lot because he didn’t have reliable Internet access at home. I’ve had several people, for example, who don’t have the bandwidth to be able to operate a video consultation. “

Forch believed that physical therapists could operate safely under strict Covid-19 protocols, including vaccinations, wearing PPE, regular testing and contact tracing.

“We are regulated healthcare professionals. We have extensive knowledge of infection control and risk mitigation.

“Personally, I don’t think I should continue as usual, I don’t think we should have crowded waiting rooms. But I also believe that the current limitations or guidelines on who we can and cannot see face to face -The face is a little restrictive “.

And the problem is starting to gain some traction with many Allied Health professionals reaching out to support the cause.

An online petition addressed to the government was created last week and already has more than 8,000 signatures.

Pukehohe’s osteopath, Cushla Geck, said only 2 percent of her patients have opted for sessions online.

“Almost no one wants to interact with you through telehealth, they want hands-on treatment. They know hands-on care will give them improved function and lessen the symptoms they’re experiencing, that’s what they’re looking for.”

He said he was receiving calls almost daily from patients who desperately needed help.

“We have many patients who have been able to undergo elective surgeries during this time and have not been able to receive their postoperative care. We have had people who have sustained injuries during this time, whether it be falling off a ladder or waking up with a sprained neck and they can’t seek acute medical care. We also have people who have injuries that get worse if they don’t get regular care and haven’t been able to seek care during this time. “

Geck wants to see a review of current guidelines to allow Allied Health professionals to see their patients and treat them in person.

“GPs are already under a heavy workload, with or without Covid. They are in high demand on their system and, for us, being able to return to the workforce will allow them to return to perform the most urgent care and will allow us to take heed of the musculoskeletal complaints that come through your door … why should anyone have to attend the ER for acute low back pain when there are other options? “

Angela Spain fractured her shoulder at the end of July and was in full physical rehabilitation prior to the confinement and on the way to regain her mobility.

Since Auckland has been on lockdown, Spain has had weekly Zoom appointments with her physical therapist, but said it didn’t make up for face-to-face appointments.

“I’ve been with physical therapists for different ailments over the years and of course they correct, they rehabilitate, they really push you forward. They are also good for your mental health when you are dealing with an injury because they give you positive reinforcement and encouragement.

“It affects your mental health because you feel like you are losing yourself or regressing and not progressing as you want.”

She was frustrated with the new ‘roadmap’ that sees retail stores and the zoo open before she can see her physical therapist in person again.

“I can’t see my physical therapist until I can get a haircut too, but I can click and pick up and go shopping and go to the zoo or even go to a CrossFit class with 10 friends. But I can’t go to a physical therapist, I do. I find it really counter-intuitive about people’s real health needs. “

In a written statement, the director of Allied Health Professions at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Martin Chadwick, said that maintaining a balance between protecting patients during Covid-19 and maintaining the general well-being of people had been a priority for the ministry since Covid-19 first emerged in 2020.

“It has been important for the ministry to work with the diverse allied health sector to take into account the suggestions and comments. More recently, we have worked with an industry-led task force to adjust the settings around the alert level. 3 and observe the configuration to improve access while maintaining checks and balances for public protection.

“For physical therapists, the threshold for treatment to be carried out has recently been revised and modified to include additional flexibility to support the provision of treatment if treatment cannot be delayed or carried out remotely.” .

Chadwick met with the sector working group on Friday and will continue to work with them this week to continue refining the guidance for the sector operating below Alert Level 3.

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