Newshub: physiotherapists and patients are suffering during level 3

Newshub | 5 October 2021

PNZ member Yousif Mansour and CEO Sandra Kirby are quoted in Newshub article Significant distress': How physiotherapists and many patients are 'suffering' being largely unable to operate during level 3. Read the full article here.

Mansour says the eligibility criteria to treat patients in-person is too strict. "In essence, when taking clinical reasoning into consideration, the client has to be in a life or death situation or facing long-term disability from an injury or condition if left untreated," he tells Newshub.

While Telehealth allows physios to diagnose and begin or continue the rehabilitation process, it's no substitute for face-to-face consultations, Mansour says. Additionally, not everyone has access to Telehealth so uptake isn't equal across regions.

Mansour says physiotherapists are well-trained in health and safety, including infection prevention controls, and many clinic owners are audited against such standards. Physios can also screen patients in detail, to the point where medical, social, and family history can be taken into consideration to see whether or not a client can be safely seen and treated.

Clinics can also be set up in a way where alternate rooms can be used, staff can work alternate shifts, and they can disinfect clinics accordingly between patients, he says. They also have access to full personal protective equipment and know-how to apply it appropriately and accordingly.

Sandra Kirby, CEO of Physiotherapy New Zealand, agrees with this, saying allied health services are "suffering" because of the lockdown. "Physios have been very supportive [of the level 3 guidelines], but level 3 was always intended to be short and sharp, and seven weeks is neither short nor sharp," she tells Newshub.

"The concerns we've got are that it's not sustainable for the long term - so that's a very definite concern - and that while generally physios have been very supportive of public health measures, there's concern they're not being implemented fairly across the health sector."

During level 3, hospitals must operate in line with the National Hospital Response Framework and primary and community health providers can open following the Community Response Framework. Infection prevention and control regulations must be followed.

Other health services such as community midwives and dentists are allowed to open, but only in-person for certain types of care. "We would say people are really focussed on hospitality, but actually, there are other businesses much more associated with health outcomes that are not able to work," Kirby says.

She adds that a range of businesses in Auckland, including allied health physiotherapy and other allied health providers, are "definitely suffering" because of the extended lockdown. "While the Government released packages and provided a wage subsidy, that doesn't cover all of the outgoings," Kirby says.

"This does impact patient health outcomes. We know that, we know that from last year, so we can't just say everything can wait."

Page updated October 2021