Thousands of patients' treatments unfairly delayed under alert level rules

Source: 1News

The Allied Health Association says many New Zealanders are having access to treatment unfairly delayed under Alert Level 3.

By Simon Mercep

The sssociation, which covers more than 40 health professions such as physiotherapy and optometry, says its members can only see the most acute cases.

"We're looking at hundreds of thousands of people who would be accessing Allied Health practitioners at the moment if we weren't in Alert Level 3," said the association’s co-chair, Sandra Kirby.

Auckland physiotherapist Mark Quinn says while patients could try their GPs or hospitals, it's not ideal.

"Physios are experts at managing these conditions and we don't want to overload an already overloaded health system," he said.

He said physiotherapists could see fewer than one per cent of the patients they normally treat.

While Telehealth provides online and phone consultations, Kirby said this did not cover all needs.

"It might be a small child that's got feeding problems that needs to see a dietician; it might be hearing aid checks, so these are things that are affecting people's daily life and daily function," she said.

1News journalist Tessa Parker was told by her GP after injuring her back that while he would like to refer her to a physio, he was unable to do so.

Parker recalled the value of prompt physiotherapy after a major knee procedure two years ago.

"To not go to physio after a big injury, it's just very scary. You feel so unsure in your recovery," she said.

The Ministry of Health told 1News its priority was to maintain a balance between protecting patients during Covid-19 and maintaining people's general wellness.

The ministry's Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, Dr Martin Chadwick, said he had met the sector and would do so again in the coming week.

He said among several options to be considered were staff being fully vaccinated, and the screening of patients for Covid symptoms.