Forum: Suspension of physiotherapy treatment may be detrimental for some patients

We physiotherapists fully agree with the need for a circuit breaker to mitigate the risks of local transmission of Covid-19. Yet, our inability to attend to patients who require essential physiotherapy services as a result of these measures has worried many within our profession.

We have, in the past week, worked closely with the Ministry of Health to expedite the exemption of business suspension for our patients with respiratory symptoms who require physiotherapy treatment.

Some of our patients suffer from chronic neuromuscular conditions such as spinal cord injury, while others have just been discharged from the hospital following a lung infection. All are at high risk of hospital re-admission and deterioration.

We are increasingly concerned that if these measures are extended beyond the stipulated four weeks, they will cause detrimental long-term consequences for our patients, including those who have just undergone surgery or patients with acute musculoskeletal-related pain and injury that is potentially disabling.

While there is now a Ministry of Trade and Industry portal for allied health services to apply for business exemption, patients who require timely physiotherapy risk further delay in their treatment as we wait for exemption to be granted.

Hence, there is an urgent need to reconsider physiotherapy services essential, before these measures have a negative impact on our patients' health and quality of life, and cause further strain on healthcare resources in the long run.

The physiotherapy profession is committed to upholding its duty and responsibilities to the public as healthcare professionals. We will conduct our services via tele-consultation whenever possible, and adhere to all infection control practices.

The Singapore Physiotherapy Association also recently launched tele-health guidelines to support our colleagues on this journey.

However, not all conditions can be managed solely by tele-consultations.

From a public health perspective, physiotherapists are able to decide the best course of management for their patients, and will do their best to minimise any exposure risk to Covid-19 while still providing the relevant treatment.

Sin Yi Lee

President

Singapore Physiotherapy Association