Fighting an uphill battle, but fighting to win
I know you are probably fatigued by what is going on around you, and you are very likely tired of reading about COVID-19.
I understand this, but in many ways this event is the defining phenomenon of our generation, and it deserves careful consideration and reflection.
As I write, metropolitan Melbourne is in stage four lockdown, while regional Victorians are enduring stage three restrictions.
In fact, Victoria has been in stage three or four lockdown for (cumulatively) four months. Other states remain on high alert, and we do not know what will happen next.
The lives of those in Melbourne are different to anything anyone could have imagined at the dawn of this year. Only one hour of exercise a day is allowed, and this must be within five kilometers of your home.
Venturing outside requires a face-covering, and a police curfew is in place. This is a difficult, and jarring, new way to live—although, arguably, these restrictions are not complicated to follow.
The same issue of complexity cannot be said of stage four workplace restrictions.
These are a complex web of hard restrictions, partial restrictions and permitted activities. Even the latter ‘permitted activities’ come with a set of rules and limitations that need to be followed.
The first draft of the new rules pertaining to permitted workplaces saw the inclusion of physiotherapy on this list—but only for patients with a GP or specialist referral.
It was déjà-vu for physiotherapists who remember the days before to our elevation to first-contact primary care professional status.
Although COVID-19 is the definition of extenuating circumstances (and these were extraordinary measures), this blockade made no sense for physiotherapists, patients or referring doctors alike.
The APA advocated hard against this, and thankfully the restrictions related to our practice did away with this archaic, and unnecessary, requirement.
This event highlighted a couple of things. First, Victoria’s state-specific response to the crisis differed from the federal response to the first wave of the coronavirus.
Many think that Victoria’s crisis has created a template for stage four restrictions for other states, should they find themselves in similar circumstances. There are no guarantees that this will be the case.
Second, relationships are important at all levels of government. They need to exist well before a crisis hits if they are to contribute to an advocacy win.
We are hard at work connecting with federal departments, state departments, chief allied health officers’ offices and Primary Health Networks to lay the foundations for future advocacy successes.
The challenge for Victorian physios is now multi-faceted.
Face-to-face care must only be provided where it is essential, and it is vital that we do the right thing. Telehealth should be adopted wherever possible.
Patients will be frustrated at your inability to see them, and that makes for tough conversations in a relationship of trust, and yet these conversations must be had.
We are in the midst of a pandemic, and while times are hard, this too shall pass. I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well.
Anja Nikolic, APA Chief Executive Officer
>> To contact Anja, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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