I really wish I had the balls to write this as an open letter to the Ministry of Health, or to all provincial Ministries of Health. I even wish we had the funding to make a long-term research project to prove this. Sigh.
One of the best allied health services available is physiotherapy. Unfortunately, it is not covered in many provinces, and those that do offer a publicly-funded physiotherapy programme, see huge waiting lists of months to years.
If we think about it from a cost-effective point of view, it should be a no-brainer to offer this as a widely-available and publicly-funded service.
Let’s use a very generic and common injury-related issue:
My back hurts
Person X goes to see their doctor because they have a sore back. They’re given a prescription for anti-inflammatories and maybe some muscle relaxants. Maybe they’re even offered a referral to a physiotherapist! Unfortunately, like many people out there, they don’t have health insurance for non-provincially insured services. This means they can’t afford the $40-100 per session rates to see a physiotherapist. This is very understandable, but a shame. This is where a publicly-funded service can fill the void. And it’s not as if there are not any professionals available; there are many many out-of-work physiotherapists, who often leave their province/country to seek employment elsewhere.
Back to our example. Mr/Ms Sore Back now can’t work. They may no longer be able to afford their prescriptions either. Work is being missed. Now since they’re not taking their pills or engaging in any active rehabilitation, they’re still in pain and not improving. They apply to go on Provincial Disability. How much is that costing the system now? What is the cost of a few readily accessible physiotherapy sessions versus putting someone on disability, so now medications are now on the provincial tab. These medications often evolve from simple anti-inflammatories to opioid analgesics. We’ve also lost a productive member of the workforce. All because there is no accessible physiotherapy offered.
How many visits to the Emergency Department or Family Doctor’s office can be avoided by individuals being able to properly rehabilitate themselves back to pain-free productive members of society? Too much health care money is spent on pain killers and useless diagnostic imaging tests for issues that could be effectively remedied if early active rehabilitation was available and accessible.
How many broken hips or joint replacements could be prevented if physiotherapy was available at the early onset of balance or arthritic symptoms? We wait too long for joint replacement surgeries and health authorities can barely afford to run Orthopaedic programmes.
I certainly believe in the value, usefulness and effectiveness of our physiotherapists. I just wish the Ministry of Health did too.