7 Oct 2021

Shops open, but aches remain as physios cannot work in level 3

From Checkpoint, 5:27 pm on 7 October 2021

Patients who are unable to see physios because of strict alert level rules are being left in agony and without proper rehabilitation, according to a group of physiotherapists who are desperate to see people in person. 

Under the current Auckland rules they cannot have face to face contact with patients, even though other medical professionals can, as they are not considered an essential service. 

That is unlikely to change, according to the government's new three-step pathway to reduce restrictions that would see public pools and shopping malls open before physiotherapists can.

A petition has been launched in a bid to change that.

Physio Patrick Peng told Checkpoint that not only were their businesses struggling, but a lot of patients had been left in pain and the telehealth service they were providing was not enough to assist them. 

Those people who have had surgeries would normally start their rehab process with a physio seeing them in hospital. 

Normally they would be discharged to the care of another physio and while patients could be provided with exercises in the current environment that wasn't enough. 

"At the beginning being able to get our hands on a joint and being able to loosen off some muscle and mobilise a joint ... increase their movement patterns and get better movement patterns going - that's all that we're trained in and that's what we'd like to get back to doing. 

"Further to that, we are trained in infection control as well."

To that end, physios would wear PPE, adopt a process of one patient in one patient out and use contact tracing. 

Asked what damage could be being done to patients for their rehab, Peng said it would push back their recovery. 

"After the lockdown last year, ...we got back to work and we had so many more complex patients." 

For instance, someone with pain in their lower back could get pain relief from a GP, but accurate diagnosis, education, physiotherapy and exercises  were physios' "bread and butter". 

An injury could get much worse over a six to eight week period with no physio and people in pain could be doing the opposite of what they should be doing - running the risk of creating harder problems to fix. 

Peng said phsyios could be relieving the pressure on hospital A &Es and medical centres of having to treat injuries such as rolled ankles and lumbar strains. 

They were hoping to change the government's mind. 

"We started to make some noise and the noise seems to be working ...we just need to keep going. We can prove that we can practise safely."

He said people could meet at parks, attend exercise classes and funeral and tangi attendances were being raised. 

"Why can't I provide healthcare? 

"My professional worth has never felt so low. ...I feel like we've just been forgotten about - it's a bit of a kick in the pants really."