By Abiodun Habbey
Dr Chris Okafor, President, Association of Clinical and Academic Physiotherapist of Nigeria (ACAPN), has called on the Federal Government to ensure the inclusion of physiotherapists in policy making of the health sector.
Okafor made the call on Wednesday at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos, as ACAPN joined its counterparts to celebrate the annual World Physiotherapy Day.
Our correspondent reports that World Physiotherapy Day is marked annually on Sept. 8 to raise awareness on the important role of physiotherapists in keeping people fit and well.
The day was founded on Sept. 8, 1996. It was designed to mark the solidarity of the global physiotherapy community in 1951.
On World Physiotherapy Day, the contribution of physiotherapists in society and how they motivate people to stay fit and independent are acknowledged.
The 2021 focus is on the role of physical therapists in the management and treatment of people who were affected by long COVID-19.
Okafor said: “A visit to the Federal Ministry of Health shows that hardly do you see a Director who is a physiotherapist in areas where they are to be heads of unit dispensing quality policies.
“And so, when decisions are made on policies that will affect physiotherapy, you find out that physiotherapists are not at the policy making level.
“Non-physiotherapists make the policies and throw it back at physiotherapists; of course, the policy cannot work well because it lacks proficiency.
“So, we need physiotherapists in policy making in the ministries at the federal, state and local government levels for effective heath service delivery.
“We also have the problem of neglect or unawareness. Many people in Nigeria think physiotherapy and physiotherapist is all about massage, exercise and so on.”
Okafor, also a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Physiotherapy, College of Medicine, University of Lagos (UNILAG), said that COVID-19 helped to open the eyes of people who never knew the role of a cardio pulmonary physiotherapist.
“A cardio pulmonary physiotherapist is a specialist who treats and manages chest conditions of patients, takes care of the heart, respiratory system and issues of the patients.
“So cardio pulmonary physiotherapists are at the centre, management and rehabilitation of COVID-19 patients in the world,” he said.
Okafor said that there was no limit to the approaches that physiotherapists could give to patient care.
According to him, in Nigeria, almost half of the physiotherapists have travelled abroad due to poor remuneration and unavailability of jobs among other factors.
He said that when government wants to set up and health committee, physiotherapists are hardly mentioned and such act needs to be urgently reviewed.
He cited the recent Committee on Health Reform and noted that no physiotherapist was listed, out of the many experts from various fields of medicine.
He said the situation was saddening and emphasised the need to recognise the relevance of physiotherapists in the health sector.
He, however, used the World Physiotherapy Day to ask the Federal Government to ensure the inclusion of physiotherapists as members of health committees.