Jun 9, 2020 | Leadership, Faces of HDGH
Allied Health Staff
This guest blog comes to you from Cassandra Leblanc one of HDGH therapy professionals. We had talked a little bit about the pandemic pay decision by government following one of the staff huddles I did on the units and after some back and forth by email decided that Cassandra’s voice needed to be shared in this format. In her blog Cassandra speaks to the role of therapists in our health system and why they matter, why they are important to our patients and to our community, and why they are ESSENTIAL. I personally and professionally am proud of our team here at HDGH and am pleased to provide a venue for their worth to be understood by those who may not “get it”. To us at HDGH they are indeed essential!
Thanks Cassandra for accepting the invitation to blog!Jan
The Ontario government recently released a revised, and final, list of healthcare staff eligible for pandemic pay. As an occupational therapist in a rehabilitation hospital, it was not only disappointing to hear that allied health professionals were once again omitted from this list, but demoralizing to realize that the Ontario government does not view our work as, “essential”. I am not alone in expressing that occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language pathologists, and certified rehabilitation assistants are concerned with the impact that this decision may have on how our services and our professions will be regarded in the future. We fear that the decision to omit allied health from pandemic pay may devalue our work in the eyes of the government, the public, and our interprofessional colleagues. With this concern in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to shed light on the unique value of allied health professionals in a rehabilitation context. We often joke that you only learn what a therapist truly does when you need therapy. While our roles are so diverse that it is impossible to capture the full scope of allied health in one blog post, I hope that this provides some semblance of perspective.
Allied health, or as you may know us individually, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language pathologists, and certified rehabilitation assistants, are healthcare professionals that focus primarily on function. Through therapy we ensure patients are able to return home to care for themselves and their families, to return to work as productive members of society, and to enjoy activities as they had prior to hospitalization. Allied health works closely with patients and families to safely and efficiently discharge patients to reduce hospital lengths of stay, and have been shown through research to be pivotal in preventing secondary complications and costly re-admissions to hospital. As the Chicago Tribune put it, "It's one thing to survive the infection, but what's next?" We are the healthcare professionals who help patients to walk, talk, and care for themselves. We help patients regain movement of their limbs, compensate for cognitive difficulties, and educate on living life to the fullest with disabilities or chronic health conditions. We help patients return to work, enjoy leisure activities and sport, and enable them to age in place safely. In short, allied health professionals support patients to regain their quality of life after illness or injury.
This brings my discussion to where we are now, in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Ontario government has neglected to acknowledge therapists’ value, there has been a steadily growing need for therapy throughout the pandemic. As professionals who focus on both recovery of illness and adaptation to disability, we have proven to be well suited to meet the needs of COVID-19 patients as they face new and debilitating symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, globalised weakness, and cognitive difficulties after long term ventilator use. In addition to our evolving role with the illness itself, we also continue to care for our pre-COVID-19 caseloads and ensure swift and safe discharge to help keep hospital capacity low in the event that the pandemic takes a turn for the worst. As you can imagine, it is impossible to provide the care we do without coming into close contact with our patients. Therapists and rehabilitation assistants are providing invaluable care with the same passion, courage, and resilience as the professions included in pandemic pay. All while donning the same protective equipment and braving the same risks of contracting COVID-19.
We are proud of our chosen professions. We are proud to put our patients first, no matter the risks. We are proud to help our patients flourish and find hope in the face of adversity. It is baffling to me how the Ontario government does not consider therapists as, “essential.” All I can think is that the government, like much of our public, is simply unaware of the services we provide. Occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech and language pathologists, and certified rehabilitation assistants may not be the first health professionals that come to mind when thinking of hospital staff, but it is my hope that by making our voices heard, our value and the services we provide on a daily basis will be considered essential during future healthcare decisions.
Below are a few articles highlighting therapy and their role during the COVID-19 pandemic:
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