Physiotherapists call for greater support to address long-COVID

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The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is calling on the government to recognise long-COVID as a chronic medical condition and enable appropriate care for the growing number of people affected.

The association has released a position statement that recommends publicly funded treatment and investment in multidisciplinary teams, including physiotherapists, to manage long-COVID and prepare for future health emergencies.

“We must learn from the past and act immediately to recognise and manage long-COVID as a condition that causes fatigue, loss of physical functions, and cognitive difficulties,” said APA president Scott Willis.

“We need government to acknowledge long-COVID and respond with appropriate and accessible rehabilitation pathways, I am particularly concerned about access to multidisciplinary long-COVID care in rural and regional Australia,” he said.

It is estimated that up to 30 per cent of people will experience COVID-19 symptoms for 12 weeks or longer after infection. Data is still emerging but one estimate puts the number of Australians living with long-COVID at 400,000.

“We know that physiotherapy rehabilitation programs can ease fatigue and improve the mood and health of people living with long COVID, which leads to increased productivity.

“The health system must be flexible and rapidly respond with public funding to properly support the growing numbers of affected Australians, as is being done around the world,” said Mr Willis.

The APA is also recommending the creation of a national register and database.

“Planning for long COVID recovery and rehabilitation is a national health priority. Encouraging new models of collaboration and publically funded access to treatment will be key to patients being able to access the multidisciplinary health care they need.

“A recovery and rehabilitation pathway is long overdue and we call on the Federal Government to act to ensure the health system is funded and structured to adapt to the longer-term effects of the pandemic.

“The evidence is clear and I can attest to it from personal experience, those with long COVID will require ongoing access to integrated health care, which must include physiotherapists,” added Mr Willis.