The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) welcomes the ‘Sick and tired: Casting a long shadow’ report findings released earlier this week, as a result of the Inquiry into Long COVID and Repeated COVID Infections.
Physiotherapy-led clinics are highlighted in Section 6 of the report as an effective approach to Long COVID management¹. Physiotherapists with expertise in the rehabilitation of chronic and complex conditions are leading these clinics in various locations throughout Australia.
While the release of this report and its recommendations surrounding multidisciplinary care (Recommendation 6) and ongoing research (Recommendation 3) is welcomed by the APA, it is disappointing to see the role of physiotherapists not specifically recognised in the recommendations, despite several acknowledgments throughout the report itself.
Physiotherapy is essential to the treatment and rehabilitation of patients experiencing the ongoing effects of Long COVID. It has been found that physiotherapy interventions helped to facilitate recovery in COVID-19 patients and act as a protective barrier. A study on ‘The vital role of physiotherapy during COVID-19: A systematic review’ showed that physiotherapy resulted in a reduced length of stay in intensive care and reduced treatment cost².
Estimates of the number of people with Long COVID vary widely, ranging from two to 30 per cent. Given Australia has reported more than 9.6 million COVID-19 cases to date, it’s likely that hundreds of thousands of people in Australia alone may have some ongoing symptoms after recovering from the illness³.
People living with Long COVID will significantly benefit from physiotherapy as part of multidisciplinary health care teams, where a patient’s symptoms can be managed through individualised treatment plans and activity management, fatigue and pain management, strength/control improvements and productivity advice.
Ongoing access to physiotherapy as part of these multidisciplinary teams will be critical in Australia’s capacity to manage and emerge from this pandemic. The Medicare system must be flexible and able to respond with a patient-centric and cost-efficient model of care that enables access to the right healthcare to properly help the millions of Australians and Australian residents affected by Long COVID⁴.
For more information on the role of physiotherapists in the management and rehabilitation of patients living with Long COVID, read the APA’s position statement.
You can also view the APA’s submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport Inquiry into long COVID and Repeated COVID Infections.
¹ See from page 130 in House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport. (2023). Sick and tired: Casting a long shadow. Inquiry into Long COVID and Repeated COVID Infections. Canberra.
² Antony Leo Asser P, Soundararajan K. The vital role of physiotherapy during COVID-19: A systematic review. Work. 2021;70(3):687-694. doi: 10.3233/WOR-210450. PMID: 34719461.
³ InMotion, The role of physio in long COVID, 2022. Available from: https://australian.physio/inmotion/role-physio-long-covid
⁴ APA submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport Inquiry into long COVID and Repeated COVID Infections, November 2022. Available from:australian.physio/sites/default/files/submission-2022-12/APA_House_of_Representatives_Inquiry_Long_COVID_and_Repeated_COVID_Infections.pdf
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