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APA calls for nationally consistent approach to restrictions

APA calls for nationally consistent approach to re
Photo: APA calls for nationally consistent approach to restrictions
A nationally consistent approach to accessing physiotherapy care that balances health needs with community lockdowns is urgently required, according to the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA).

APA National President Scott Willis said while the APA supported government measures to control COVID-19, there was an urgent need to remove confusion and reduce the detrimental impact restrictions were having on community health.

Currently, the rules around physiotherapy access differ from state to state, leaving many physiotherapists and their patients unsure about the right approach to receiving care.

“As things stand, neither the patient nor their health provider has clarity about how to ensure they are getting the care they need,” said Mr Willis.

“What we are asking is that physiotherapists be respected as the highly trained professionals they are, and for restrictions on access to physiotherapy care to be eased.”
Adding to the confusion, was the change from 2020 when physiotherapy was considered an essential service, to 2021, when lockdowns included physiotherapy, to the detriment of the community.

“There are significant health implications of limiting access to necessary physiotherapy care during lockdowns,” said Mr Willis.

“In many instances, unless prompt health care is provided by a physiotherapist, patients are likely to experience worsening pain and/or exacerbated health conditions that may result in unnecessary and avoidable presentation at Emergency Departments or, increased dependence on pain medications.”

“During the course of extended lockdowns in Victoria through 2020 and 2021, and now NSW in 2021, the number of people forced to delay routine care that will ultimately result in increased care needs has risen.

“There is an urgent need for a national approach to address these inconsistencies and detrimental health impacts.”

Physiotherapists are seeing daily examples of the negative impact of lockdowns on their patients’ health and wellbeing, said Mr Willis.

“One such story is of a vulnerable person being exposed to the emergency environment and creating an unnecessary load on the hospital system.

“A physiotherapist’s client with an intellectual disability and scoliosis whose treatment was delayed week because it was classified as non-critical.

“They developed increasing back pain and vomiting and was admitted to emergency to investigate the vomiting. Their physiotherapist eventually saw them during the week and all the vomiting, and most of the pain, was resolved after two sessions.”

Mr Willis cited another example of a business manager whose staff member reported an injury in early September, however wasn’t able to book an initial appointment with their physiotherapist until more than three weeks post injury.

“This delay has directly impacted on our service delivery, her recovery and impacted their workers compensation.”

Mr Willis said physiotherapists were highly trained specialists and clinicians who should be allowed to apply their professional judgement when determining how to best care for their patients – be that face-to-face care or telehealth.

“Physiotherapy’s role in primary health care is well established and widely recognised. Physiotherapists should be able to operate under the same degree of trust as other professionals, including GPs and dentists, who are able to exercise judgement in treating face to face for conditions that may not necessarily be urgent but, have the potential to become so.”

“With New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory all under some form of restrictions and lockdowns, it is time for national agreement to ensure vital health services remain operating and patients can access safe and effective care,” he said.

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.