WCPT is calling on members of the World Health Assembly to commit to expanding funding for rehabilitation, as part of the global response to COVID-19.
Emma Stokes, WCPT president, said: ‘This is both a short-term measure so the human cost of this pandemic can be minimised, but also to ensure rehabilitation services are established as a key pillar of routine universal health coverage within national health systems across the globe.
‘Physiotherapy has a critical role to play in maintaining the health and wellbeing of the global community. However, with many services suspended during the period of physical distancing, people will likely experience a deterioration of other conditions unrelated to COVID-19.
'The long-term effect of delays in accessing and seeking physiotherapy services, or in doing little physical activity while waiting for surgery, could have devastating effects on the overall mental and physical health of a person. This may lead to more disability, which will require more rehabilitation. During this pandemic, scarce health resources may be prioritised elsewhere, leading to a downward spiral for the individual, their family and society.
‘This would be a public health emergency.’
The WCPT statement continues:
‘The rehabilitation needs of people with severe COVID-19 exist during the acute, sub-acute and long-term phases of the disease. Physiotherapists are vital to the rehabilitation efforts in all these phases from intensive care units, hospital wards, stepdown facilities and in the community. The appropriate deployment of physiotherapists to address local population needs may facilitate early discharge, thus reducing the burden on scarce hospital beds.
‘However, the provision of rehabilitation services as part of routine care must also continue during this time. Rehabilitation is an essential component of care offered for individuals across the lifespan to optimise physical and cognitive functioning to reduce disability.’
The World Health Assembly, WHO’s decision-making body, is meeting virtually for the first time, 18-19 May.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, said the World Health Assembly was: ‘an opportunity for health leaders to commit to fight #COVID19 together, in unity, in solidarity. That’s the only way we can stop this pandemic and keep the world safe.’