Covid Restrictions Forcing Permanent Closure Of Primary Health Care Providers


Repeated COVID-19 lockdowns, with no exemptions or
funding support for significant numbers of private primary
healthcare practices is putting the viability of thousands
of businesses and the wellbeing of the public at risk, warns
the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association
(NZCA).

Acting NZCA President Dr Cassandra Fairest,
chiropractor says: `We warned last year that a crisis in
health care provision may be on the horizon and now it is
well and truly here. Media regularly reports on the
incredible impact on communities and various industries but
our Auckland colleagues and their patients are forgotten
victims of the latest lockdown’.

`We have had
reports of two chiropractic practices closing their doors
forever due to this latest lockdown. After 12 weeks of no
hands-on patient care in the past year they just can’t
afford to continue. Most other countries are allowing highly
skilled allied health workers such as chiropractors to
continue, even under elevated levels with appropriate PPE
and infection controls. Are primary healthcare providers
less trusted than real estate agents, supermarkets and
takeaway restaurants to manage Covid-19
precautions?’

The peak body for chiropractic in New
Zealand says that many primary health providers, such as
chiropractors, dental health practitioners, acupuncturists,
physiotherapists and other allied health professions rely on
face to face consultations and fee-based income to survive.
Prolonged or repeated restrictions on the delivery of
healthcare will lead to widespread insolvency of some
businesses and leave thousands of New Zealanders without an
option for healthcare in their communities.

Cassandra
Fairest says: `The NZCA Council has written to COVID-19
Response Minister Chris Hipkins to again plead our case.
Late last year the Ministry asked for submissions on
balancing the risk of spread with keeping allied health
services going for community well being. We have been told
that ‘independent advisors’ decided the risks outweigh
the benefits but have not been given any detail about how
they came to this conclusion’.

`Ironically, our
members have seen a sharp rise in people seeking care during
the pandemic yet during Level 3, chiropractic practices
remained closed to anything but an incredibly restrictive
criteria for urgent care. While telehealth options over a
video consultation can suit certain cases, it is of very
limited benefit for hands-on providers. Even Level 2
restrictions impact on the flow and viability of some
practices with Auckland facing prolonged
difficulties’.

`The Ministry of Health restrictions
are particularly hard on chiropractors that depend on
hands-on interactions and are paid out of pocket fees by the
public. They are highly trained health professionals who
have excellent knowledge

and ability to screen for
COVID symptoms, practice infection control and appropriate
PPE use, and have exceptional contact tracing information
built into their patient management systems already. These
practitioners and their clients that depend on their
services are being severely affected by the pandemic
response. Of course, many industries are struggling but at
least some can still operate with physical distancing or
click and collect and still have some income. Our members
face a gruelling scenario if rolling lockdowns continue and
it is going to end up costing the country in deteriorating
public health and elevated longer term healthcare
costs’.

Hospitality, tourism, the creative arts, and
some other industries are receiving targeted assistance,
however those healthcare businesses with no public funding
streams, which make up a large portion of essential
healthcare services, seem to be a forgotten sector.
Chiropractors work in the field of health promotion and
wellbeing, something which should be of high importance
given the pandemic that we are facing. Having access to
healthcare services and the benefits it provides to both the
public and the economy should ideally be placed ahead of the
‘nice to haves’ such as dining out or an adventure
holiday. Even before COVID-19, there was a need for
Government support of a broader range of healthcare options
which currently completely miss out on any funding, such as
that given to GP practices and the DHBs and hospital
system.

Chiropractors are regulated primary health
care professionals registered under the HPCA Act with close
to 700 annual practicing certificate holders practising in
solo, group, and multidisciplinary clinics around New
Zealand. New Zealand chiropractors have significant training
(a minimum 5-year tertiary degree) and a broad yet highly
skilled scope of practice and clinical expertise. They
provide care for the public in a wide range of health
concerns, including spinal problems, posture, certain
neurological issues and chronic pain. Importantly,
particularly with the heightened levels of mental health
concerns being seen this year, chiropractors help many
people with anxiety, sleeping difficulties and stress
related disorders through their ability to assist the
nervous system. There has also been an increase in the
number of people seeking chiropractic care for postural
related strain and stress from working at home. These health
concerns highlight how important it is that the public can
have access to chiropractors during increasing alert
levels.

New Zealand’s chiropractors are taking the
lead to inform, and inspire people to improve their health
and prevent pain and disability by educating the public to
have a greater understanding of the relationship between
their spine and nervous system and how this affects their
function and overall wellbeing.

At a time when people
are dealing with significant stress and different health
concerns, now more than ever we need to ensure the public
has access to all health care services when they need
it.

© Scoop Media

 



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