Our role as essential healthcare service providers has not changed after the recent announcement by the government regarding the roadmap to re-opening the country.
As chartered physiotherapists working in the private sector, we are deemed primary medical as well as essential therapies according to the government list published on the 28th of March 2020, view here.
Unfortunately, most of the general public are not aware of our role as essential service providers, partly due to the failure of our professional body, the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists, to advocate for physiotherapy and help create public awareness of the benefits of physiotherapy at this time.
Nonetheless, in the early days of the COVID-19 restrictions, we set to work providing an online (remote) support service to our patients via Mount Merrion Connect, which proved very successful. Mount Merrion Connect continues to provide remote support for those who are self-isolating, suspected or confirmed of having COVID-19.
As the rate of COVID-19 infections falls and with a decreasing growth rate, we decided to resume in-clinic appointments. In-clinic appointments are subject to strict infection control and avoidance measures, for those with essential healthcare needs and who are safe to attend the clinic.
Last week we treated patients with severe pain and mobility restrictions who had been unable or unwilling to access other care providers.
An example was a patient who'd had knee replacement surgery and was still struggling with pain, swelling and limited mobility two months after the procedure. She could not arrange a review with her private consultant and only provided with a sheet of exercises by a stand-in physiotherapist. The treatment session involved advice and education, specific manual therapy, electrotherapy, and medical acupuncture all delivered in a safe, infection controlled setting while maintaining social distancing requirements applicable in a healthcare setting. The results after the session were very positive, and the patient felt reassured, knowing that in a few weeks, she would be back on track. As I always say, the success of orthopaedic surgery depends on proper post-operative rehabilitation.
Getting used to wearing full PPE has been easier than expected and will no doubt become the norm for many months to come. When I first donned my apron, mask, visor and gloves, I was reminded of my surgical placement as a student. (I was fortunate to have observed many orthopaedic surgical procedures before then joining the physiotherapy team who looked after the patients post-op). Of course, all PPE has to be changed and carefully disposed of between patients, as well as the treatment area sanitised. Changing PPE and cleaning takes time, and so we have extended the time allocation for each patient to allow for this.
As we have no childcare and are home-schooling, Lorraine and myself have a limited number of appointments we can offer either remotely or in-clinic each day. However, as the demand for essential physiotherapy increases, our goal is to bring our super physiotherapy team back to work. We are looking forward to that day.
In good health,