23 May 2020

Physiotherapists around the world are using a NSW training program that has already upskilled more than 300 therapists here who treat COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the NSW Government has invested $34 million to build its own specialised workforce of physiotherapists and other allied health professionals providing vital ICU care.

“These highly skilled therapists play a critical role in the treatment of COVID-19 patients in the ICU, and their recovery after they are discharged, as many experience very challenging medical complications,” Mr Hazzard said.

“This initiative is part of the NSW Government’s ongoing efforts to ensure we have the equipment and appropriately skilled workforce to care for our sickest COVID-19 patients.

“We should be extremely proud this innovative program has been picked up by physiotherapists in the UK and US, not unlike the way other countries have also followed the lead of NSW Health, embracing some of its containment measures.”

The training is conducted in partnership with the Australian Physiotherapy Association and is delivered through the Health Education and Training Institute (HETI).

Anwar Hassan, Senior Cardiorespiratory and ICU Physiotherapist, Nepean Hospital, said COVID-19 patients in ICU can experience such complications as stiff and partially collapsed lungs, severe lack of oxygen, a build-up of secretions in the lungs, profound muscle weakness and reduced mobility.

“With the training and support, NSW Health physiotherapists have been assisting COVID-19 patients with improving respiratory performance in severe respiratory failure, positioning and weaning from ventilators and improving mobility,” Mr Hassan said.

“Physiotherapists and other allied health staff also continue to support and treat patients on the ward, and in the community after they leave ICU to help them recover.”

The $34 million allied health package is part of the NSW Government’s $800 million investment for NSW Health to help boost ICU capacity and purchase additional services and medical equipment.

See footage of Mr Hassan and a COVID-ICU patient​​