The COVID-19 outbreak is changing the way the health care system functions, specifically the management of nonemergency, essential hospital services such as physical, speech and occupational therapy. Patients who require physical, speech and occupational therapy are often recovering from surgery or an underlying medical condition that caused a stroke or other trauma, putting them in a higher at-risk category for COVID-19 complications. Therefore, additional precautions must be in place to ensure that rehabilitation patients receive the treatment they need without risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, there are specific guidelines recommended for physical, speech and occupational therapy services within an acute hospital setting, such as:
- Hospitals should consider testing all physical, speech and occupational therapy patients for COVID-19 and separating them accordingly to reduce the risk of contamination from shared surfaces and airborne droplets.
- Physical therapists working within the ICU should be specifically trained on how to handle the COVID-19 outbreak and appropriate protocol for reducing infection of themselves and their patients.
- Staff who are pregnant should avoid exposure to COVID-19. This includes regular testing of staff and patients and appropriate separation of the infected.
- Avoid unnecessary review of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 unless clinically required due to significant functional decline.
- All aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) should be performed in a negative-pressure room or in an isolated environment with the staff wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
- When AGPs are required for a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19, the therapist must wear an N95/P2 mask, fluid-resistant long-sleeve gown, goggles or face shield, and gloves. It is recommended that hair and shoes are also covered to reduce permeation from airborne droplets.
- All physical therapists should wear a high-filtration mask when in contact with a patient, whether or not the patient has tested positive for COVID-19.
- All staff should be trained in the correct way to wear and remove PPE, specifically face masks.
At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we have more than 50 years of experience working with hospitals to provide outsourced therapy services. We are here to help you create a safe and functional environment for your patients and staff during this COVID-19 outbreak. If you need assistance during this time, please contact our team today.