This year Steward Health Care Malta marked World Physiotherapy Day with a series of initiatives which were focussed on the practice of the profession within the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Physiotherapy is a profession that enables and empowers the person to achieve a healthier life through movement and physical means. It places an emphasis on analysis of movement based on the structure and function of the body.
Physiotherapists help restore movement and function to as near normal as possible when someone is affected by injury, illness, developmental delays or other disability. Persons who have a permanent disability are empowered to live a better quality of life and maximise their level of independence through timely support, advice and access to assistive technologies. Physiotherapists encourage self-management through education of the patient and care givers.
Over the past weeks, Gozo General Hospital (GGH), Karin Grech Hospital (KGH) and St Luke’s Hospital (SLH) organised a number of events and initiatives to raise awareness about physiotherapy.
Physiotherapists at the GGH produced a 40 minute video clip on COVID-19 in relation to physiotherapy. The video provides information on the virus, tips on how to prevent contracting the disease as well as ways of how physiotherapy can help in the recovery of COVID-19 patients. The video clip will be used at the physiotherapy reception of the hospital and other areas in Steward Malta’s hospitals.
Physiotherapists at KGH also worked on a video clip and produced awareness posters for this year’s World Physiotherapy Day. In addition, Florina Silvio from KGH participated in a television programme with the aim of increasing awareness about the role of physiotherapists especially in the rehabilitation of COVID-19 patients. Florina has over 11 years’ physiotherapy experience and has worked in ward and day hospital settings. During the interview she spoke about how COVID-19 has affected physiotherapy and how physiotherapists have adapted to this new reality, such as through telehealth, whilst taking all health and safety precautions in the interests of patients and staff during in-patient care.
The Outpatient Physiotherapy department at KGH provides a service for patients through its neurological, vascular and amputee as well as musculoskeletal units. The latter is made up of the orthopaedic, chronic pain, rheumatology, back, aquatic therapy and general musculoskeletal services. The Inpatient Physiotherapy service at KGH offers intensive rehabilitation for adults, older adults, and stroke survivors with the ultimate aim of reintegrating them successfully into society. The Day Hospital service caters for older adults on an outpatient basis.
Physiotherapy and COVID-19
The pandemic is posing great challenges to hands-on-professions such as physiotherapy. Providing quality service at a distance remains a priority for all physiotherapists working at Steward’s Physiotherapy Outpatient Departments. Modern technology is playing an integral role in reaching out to patients, despite the social distancing regulations. A ‘Helpline’ has been set up to offer all patients referred for physiotherapy outpatient service timely and direct communication service with a physiotherapist. This new service provides patients with online assistance, assessment, treatment and advice through telephone calls and the provision of personalised, online exercise programmes.
Professional assistance is only a phone call away, throughout the patients’ rehabilitation in the safety of the patients’ homes. Furthermore, the Helpline system provides the means of triaging patients and earmarking those requiring urgent face-to-face intervention, while taking care that all COVID-19 safety measures are in place. Other ways of reaching out to patients, especially the most vulnerable, is done through video-consultations with the use of electronic devices and webcams provided by Steward Health Care. These video calls provide physiotherapists with the opportunity to continue to monitor and progress the patient rehabilitation process, through exercise prescription and reviews, as well as assessments of the patients’ home environment.
Despite the challenges faced by patients and physiotherapists alike, this novel way of managing patients is based on a patient-centred approach, with the primary aim of delivering a physiotherapy service that is consistent with the one delivered prior to COVID-19, in terms of quality and standards of patient care.
We thank all our physiotherapists for their hard work and dedication, especially during these challenging times!