Nova Scotia physiotherapists advocate for emergency rooms – Halifax
As Nova Scotia’s health care crisis overwhelms emergency care capacity, physiotherapists are advocating for presence in emergency rooms (ER) to assist with care needs.
“As far as our scope of practice goes, physiotherapists are really well positioned to transition straight into the ER,” says Stephen Ritchie of the Nova Scotia Physiotherapy Association (NSPA). “And we really have the resources available.”
The idea of a multi-disciplinary emergency department is not new.
Ritchie says that physiotherapists have been advocating for the presence of NSPA members in the ER for years and that pilot programs have been successful.
“It has been done in many other jurisdictions, even in Canada it is being piloted with great success in Quebec right now,” Ritchie says. “Across Alberta and Ontario as well. And we see this happening across the US and across the UK as well.”
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He says that adding ‘allied health professionals’ to emergency departments would have almost immediate benefits to the health care system – reducing waiting times, more frequent visits and opioid prescriptions.
“Because these are individuals who wouldn’t necessarily be prioritized from the perspective of emergency departments, but they have a need that needs attention.”
There are approximately 700 physiotherapists working in Nova Scotia, half of whom work in the private system.
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Ritchie says private professionals will transition well into the public system if offered a position.
“We regularly have discussions with our members about what they are most passionate about, what they would like to see us do on their behalf,” Ritchie says. “And it’s usually number one on the list, and it’s been there year after year.”
A spokesperson for Nova Scotia’s Department of Health and Welfare told Global News by email that, “The roles and responsibilities of health professionals are always evolving to better meet the health needs of the population and improve access to care “
He says the department is working with partners, such as Nova Scotia Health, to ensure “the right staff are doing the right job.”
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Ritchie says the NSPA has been in ‘quite a lot’ of contact with the health minister, discussing how the help can best be used to help its members.
And if that change is made, he says physiotherapists can make the transition easier.
“If tomorrow the premier and health minister decided to put physiotherapists into emergency departments, as long as the recruitment process was fast enough, you would be able to have a physiotherapist within a few weeks,” Ritchie says.
“The resources are available, the expertise is available and we have seen how it can work really effectively in other jurisdictions.”
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