Media Statement: Physiotherapists call for equal access for all to Long Covid treatment


Wednesday 18 January 2022

Physiotherapists call for equal access for all to Long Covid treatment

Physiotherapy New Zealand is calling for equitable access to health care for those with Long Covid.

PNZ Cardio-Respiratory Special Interest Group secretary, Dr Sarah Rhodes supports epidemiologist Michael Baker’s concern that repeated waves of COVID-19 infection and reinfection may cause a large burden of disease in New Zealand.

“We will continue to advocate for Long Covid clinics and accessibility to audio-visual resources that support people to manage their symptoms. Physiotherapy can play a significant part in supporting those with long term symptoms like fatigue and breathlessness and sleep disturbance. It is imperative that these services are funded so that no one misses out.

“In the absence of funding, Long Covid services are being developed within existing physiotherapy services, both in hospitals and in the community. However, this is not sustainable in the long term without government support, as patient numbers are likely to increase over time and put even more pressure on overstretched services.

“Long Covid health care through the private sector can be costly and exists in only a handful of urban locations. Without funding and better access to care, this is likely to further impact those groups that are often under-served by the existing health system: Māori, Pacific Peoples, disabled people and those living rurally.”

The Ministry of Health Guideline for people living with Long Covid recommends a multi-disciplinary approach, which would include other health professionals, such as occupational therapists, psychologists, speech therapists and social workers, as well as access to specialists where appropriate.

Dr Rhodes says this is an important consideration for the development of any service in future to ensure best practice in the management of this condition. She says there needs to be clear pathways for patients to get funded treatment.

“We are also still hearing cases of some patients having to fight for recognition that Long Covid is a real problem. These patients are experiencing persistent symptoms 12 weeks after their initial COVID-19 infection and beyond.

“Although patients are experiencing a range of issues, breathlessness and fatigue are common factors along with other symptoms, including ‘brain fog’ and sleep disturbance. With conservative estimates of one in ten people developing Long Covid, tens of thousands of New Zealanders are likely to need to support to help them manage their symptoms,” said Dr Rhodes.

“New Zealand physiotherapists have been liaising closely with their overseas counterparts and are increasingly aware of the issues those with Long Covid face. With our existing skills, we are well placed to support the management of many common Long Covid symptoms, including fatigue, breathing pattern dysfunction, persistent cough, and muscle and joint pain.”


Page updated January 2023