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NZ Chiropractors Offer Support To Health Service During Pandemic

Members of the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association (NZCA) have offered their support as highly trained health care professionals to the health service during the Covid-19 national emergency.

Many NZ chiropractors have signed up to the Ministry of Health and HomeGuard registers to offer to be redeployed or utilised, within their significant scope of practice if the pressure becomes too great on the NZ health system as has happened overseas.

NZCA President and chiropractor Dr Hayden Thomas says: `Chiropractors are primary health care professionals registered under the HPCA Act with close to 700 APC holders practising in solo, group, and multidisciplinary clinics around New Zealand. We have significant training (a minimum 5-year tertiary degree) and a broad yet highly skilled scope of practice and clinical expertise including manual spinal and extremity care, radiography and radiology, orthopaedics, neurology, rheumatology, physiology, and pathology. Our desire is to be ready to help out where and when we can, even if it isn’t in a hands-on role.’

The NZ Chiropractic Board (NZCB) has recently approved a Telehealth policy and standards guideline to allow chiropractors to communicate clinical information with patients to offer advice, self-care and exercises from isolation.

Chiropractic has now also been classified as an essential service for urgent acute/emergency care. However, this has significantly restricted criteria requiring strict protocols, which many practices presently do not have the equipment or ability to implement as yet. Dr Thomas explains that ‘the NZCB in its role as the Regulatory Authority for our profession has put in place a very stringent set of guidelines for a chiropractor to practice under during the Level 4 lockdown. Our Association has advised our members to rigorously abide by these safety protocols. These include the use of appropriate PPE gear, and strictly maintaining all relevant governmental instructions and guidance. We sympathise with our many patients who see us as essential to their health and function; however, we must do our utmost to prevent the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. Please understand that your local chiropractor may only be available for Telehealth consultations at this time’.

Dr Thomas adds `Enabling some urgent and acute only chiropractic care at Alert Level 4 will aid other health services dealing directly with COVID-19 cases’. Dr Thomas had written to the Ministry of Health in regard to doctors of chiropractic being positioned to provide care and imaging services including, but not limited to, managing acute and urgent neuro-musculo-skeletal conditions. He noted that a number of chiropractors have been approached by patients who are working in essential services, who require acute care to maintain their service to the community. Reports have indicated that this need was growing and increasing in pressure. ‘If we are able to keep essential care providers at work and provide emergency chiropractic care to other patients, it will assist in keeping public hospital emergency departments and general practitioner waiting rooms specifically free for COVID-19 assessment and treatment.’

Dr Thomas says: `Examples we have experienced are, a dairy farmer with acute back pain resulting in him being unable to milk his herd along with police, paramedics, other frontline health care practitioners, fire and emergency staff and many other workers who understandably need to be functional to deliver their essential services and rely on the care chiropractors provide’.

The NZCA has also suggested that within the limitations of the current lockdown some chiropractors could be placed in urgent care, hospital outpatient clinics, or Emergency Departments. Triaging could then occur, and referral to immediate service provision be made as happens in other countries such as Canada and the USA, where chiropractors are considered to be critical infrastructure workers who are included in some hospitals and in collaborative multi-disciplinary teams.

Dr Thomas observes that ‘over the past decade health systems have come under increasing pressure and many countries are looking at innovative and transformational ways to address the overload. I believe that post lockdown and resolution of the COVID-19 crisis will see a growing interest in how we can better assist people to get and stay well, focusing on preventative care and ways to improve overall health and wellbeing.’

New Zealand’s chiropractors are taking the lead to inform and inspire people to live a healthier life and to improve their overall function. Educating the public to have a greater understanding of the relationship between their spine and nervous system, improving their posture, addressing and preventing spinal problems, and engaging in physical activity and other healthy lifestyle habits leads to healthier, happier lives.

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