A strategic countermove

Cartoon image of a hand placing a king onto a chessboard.

A strategic countermove

Cartoon image of a hand placing a king onto a chessboard.

As your National President, I was shocked and incensed at media reports describing physiotherapists as overservicing and providing substandard care within the aged care setting.

What made it even more infuriating was that it was reported in a mainstream Sydney and national print media outlet, with quotes from the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Richard Colbeck, and from a leader of a peak aged care provider group.

The reports started to question our professional integrity.

In response, we had to put emotion aside and move swiftly to defend the reputation of our profession.

I am very proud of the APA Executive Leadership Team, engaged members and the policy and communications teams, who made a strategic plan to counter this narrative.

We needed to turn this negative and uninformed piece of media to our advantage by using it to promote our strategic direction for the aged care sector.

We have been sending a consistent message to the government and to aged care providers over the past 10 years: let us provide our full scope of practice.

This goes beyond pain management to encompass restorative and preventative care for our most vulnerable.

Our plan was always to be assertive in our message as we support the profession under significant government restrictions but also to present solutions for the betterment of Australians who need physiotherapy.

We have worked so hard over this past decade, building relationships with external stakeholders, consumer groups, other allied health groups, government departments and ministers.

We needed to take some emotion out of the media reports and present our research (including falls prevention research, the Value of Physiotherapy in Australia report and a range of scientific data), continually referencing the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recommendations and explaining exactly what our patients require in a contemporary aged care system.

This strategic plan, which was flawlessly executed in the media, led to a meeting with Senator Colbeck and a social media post from him stating that allied health and physiotherapy are important cogs in aged care service delivery.

Articles began to appear online and in major aged care provider publications, along with growing online support from consumer groups, external stakeholders, members, non-members and international colleagues.

The amount of media coverage generated by this issue has never been seen before in physiotherapy and we were able to steer it in a direction that was positive both for us as a profession and for the Australian public.

I think this underlines the fact that we need to be proactive—to have an overarching strategy and to present solutions to problems backed up by research—but also that we need to look for opportunities to be reactive in a positive yet assertive way.

This will not be the last time that our professional integrity is questioned and our response demonstrates the maturity of the profession.

We will be ready at any time to back up physiotherapy with research, proof of its economic value, strategic planning and a passion for what is right for people’s health and for society.

Take care, stay safe.


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