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New Zealanders Being Denied Critical Health Treatment

Regulated health professionals can safely treat patients in Alert Level 3, say allied health leaders, who are questioning the Government’s position that prevents the public from accessing necessary healthcare.

Under Alert Level 3 health professionals are expected to deliver treatment via telehealth. Physiotherapy New Zealand and PodiatryNZ are asking why, as this means lengthy postponements to essential treatments.

Physiotherapists and podiatrists already maintain protocols to maximise patient and staff safety including ongoing risk assessment and infection prevention control procedures at all alert levels.

Physiotherapy New Zealand Chief Executive Sandra Kirby is concerned that “as we respond to this fourth COVID lockdown, Aucklanders’ health and wellbeing is being put at risk. Recognising we’re likely to experience ongoing lockdowns the current restrictions on health services are too stringent.”

Businesses outside the health sector can see the public in-person in higher alert levels, physiotherapists and podiatrists are left with telehealth as the only option for treating people who require their expertise.

The Ministry of Health called for submissions on their approach to health service delivery last November. Four months on they have not addressed Physiotherapy New Zealand and PodiatryNZ’s request for registered health professionals to provide safe in-person services at Alert Level 3.

“We know the government is walking a fine line between protecting the health of all New Zealanders with the elimination strategy and maintaining health and economic well-being. While guidelines for Alert Level 3 have been eased for some food sellers, indications from the Ministry of Health are there are no changes planned for health services, says Kirby”

There are concerns that lengthy delays in accessing necessary treatment are risking chronic conditions including avoidable work disability. Concerns extend into Level 2 healthcare in aged residential care. The outcomes for aged residential care residents are irreversible, where treatment delayed for this group is in fact treatment denied.

PodiatryNZ Chief Executive Jennifer Pelvin agrees that an inability for podiatrists to treat patients during alert levels is creating serious health issues for many New Zealanders. “Podiatrists are health professionals trained to deliver services to appropriate infection prevention control standards.

“Without regular podiatric care, some people find themselves in extreme discomfort and their physical condition deteriorates. Falls ulcerations and infections can very quickly become life or limb threatening conditions. Furthermore, suffering from pain, discomfort and mobility issues can and frequently does impact people’s mental health.”

“The Ministry has been too slow at progressing a pathway for registered health professionals to be able to work at Level 3. Podiatrists are respected health professionals, required to exercise professional judgement and carry out their activities to the highest standards. Why is it at Alert Level 3 they are treated as if they will throw all their training and professional judgement out the window?”

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