Last week’s hard lockdown across much of the south west of Western Australia - which allowed physiotherapists to treat via telehealth only - caused unnecessary distress for many patients and highly avoidable Emergency Department (ED) presentations according to the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA).

New Perth mother Catherine Green sought urgent treatment from her physiotherapist last week. Suffering severe mastitis that had been previously treated quickly and successfully by her physiotherapist, she had to be turned away from the clinic due to the WA Health directive. Suffering considerable pain and distress, Ms Green was forced to go to a hospital ED for urgent pain relief.

Ms Green said, “It was a really difficult situation to be in. I’m sleep deprived, stressed and in pain, and the last thing I wanted to do was go to hospital, especially when I knew my local physio could help me.”

APA National President Scott Willis has questioned the sensibility of the government directive, particularly given urgent physiotherapy care was deemed an essential service and permitted for critical care cases throughout hard lockdowns in other states over the past 12 months.

Mr Willis said, “We’ve seen physiotherapists exercise their clinical judgement to determine the safest and most appropriate treatment for their patients throughout 2020, and there hasn’t been a single case of transmission through physio/patient contact in that time. Infection control practices and clinical needs assessments are well embedded in private practice.”

“The health directive to engage in telehealth only, despite some patients being in acute pain and assessed as an urgent need, needs to be reconsidered. We have to be smarter about how we support patients in these situations, and learn from the experiences of other states.”

“Physios are highly trained professionals, they are well aware of the need to be cautious and follow all health directives to the letter,” said Mr Willis.

The APA has written to the WA Health Minister and Chief Allied Health Officer seeking urgent review and further consultation should the state be forced back into lockdown again.

“We are fully supportive of lockdown measures to limit the spread of COVID and of course will support the WA government in that endeavour. We’re simply asking the government to consult with us on the most appropriate and safe ways to ensure urgent patient needs are being met.”


Scott Willis is available for further comment.  


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