PHYSIOTHERAPY

Physiotherapists want profession given more focus

There are slightly over 2,500 physiotherapists in the country registered by the Physiotherapy Council of Kenya.

In Summary

• The KSP chair said physiotherapists across the EAC must collaborate to enhance the best evidence-based scientific approach to managing different conditions that exist within the EAC region.

• “We must look at physiotherapy not only as for sick people but also as a preventive modality,” Opondo said.

A patient goes through a special physiotherapy session at Sai Rock Hotel on Friday.
THERAPY A patient goes through a special physiotherapy session at Sai Rock Hotel on Friday.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO

Physiotherapists in the country are now pushing to have their professional services placed at primary levels of health care.

Kenya Society of Physiotherapists chairman Henry Opondo on Friday said most people ignore the physiotherapy aspect of health care and only tend to pay attention to it when in crutches.

He said in the concept of Universal Health Coverage and primary health, which is still aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals, physiotherapy must be put at the forefront.

“We must look at physiotherapy not only as for sick people but also as a preventive modality,” Opondo said.

He spoke on the last day of a three-day East Africa Conference on Physiotherapy at Sai Rock Hotel in Mombasa.

Opondo said since the government is making efforts towards bringing collaboration of the East African Economic Bloc, physiotherapists need to take the initiative and take advantage of the EAC.

He said the three spheres of political, economic and social factors, can affect health, making physiotherapy a crucial need.

The KSP chair said physiotherapists across the EAC must collaborate to enhance the best evidence-based scientific approach to managing different conditions that exist within the EAC region.

“We are trying to understand the uniqueness of each country in terms of health needs specific to physiotherapy,” Opondo said.

Martha Mmasi, the Physiotherapy CEO at the Health ministry, said the treatment is a core component in the healthcare service, and cuts across the board.

“We do promotive, preventive, rehabilitative and curative treatment,” she said.

She, however, noted that there is need to upscale physiotherapy services so as to align with the current global trend.

To start this, she said, the numbers of physiotherapists in the country must be increased. There are slightly over 2,500 physiotherapists in the country registered by the Physiotherapy Council of Kenya.

This means one for every 1,000 physiotherapy patients, there is only one physiotherapist, a paltry ratio.

“These are the only physiotherapists licensed to operate anywhere in the country and beyond.”

Mmasi said the biggest challenge facing the physiotherapy profession is he human resource, occasioned by lack of finances.

She lamented that health rehabilitation has been put at the back seat by stakeholders.

“We have to tackle issues health in the preventive way by early identification because Universal Health Coverage is also about community-based rehabilitation where we have to meet the person at the community level not the person looking for the service at the facilities,” Mmasi stated.

She said focus is now more on preventive therapy than curative therapy, which she said is expensive.

“That’s why we would call upon NHIF to support this venture. Preventive is cheaper than cure because it comes before the person gets sick so as to warrant curative treatment.”

According to Daniel Kangutu, Head of Physiotherapy Training at the Kenya Medical Training College, formal physiotherapy training started at KMTC in 1966 and for a long time it was the only place one would get professional training.

It is only until the mid-2000s that University education on physiotherapy started in Kenya.

“So, all this time, KMTC has trained over 90 per cent of physiotherapists in this country,” Kangutu said.

He noted that KMTC also leads in specialisation training of physiotherapy.

A patient prepares to go through a special physiotherapy session at Sai Rock Hotel on Friday.
HERE WE GO A patient prepares to go through a special physiotherapy session at Sai Rock Hotel on Friday.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO

There are three major specialisations of physiotherapy, including; musculoskeletal physiotherapy, neurorehabilitation and pelvic health.

Musculoskeletal physiotherapy includes orthopaedic manual therapists who deal with muscles.

Neurorahbilitation is a complex medical process which aims to aid recovery from a nervous system injury, and to minimise and/or compensate for any functional alterations resulting from it.

Pelvic health is the best possible functioning and management of the bladder, bowel, and reproductive organs, according to Kangutu.

He said other specialisation courses are coming up including specialisation in sports physiotherapy, paediatric rehabilitation and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation.

“You can remember during the height of Covid-19 pandemic, almost all the hospital ICUs were full. Physiotherapy played a key role,” Kangutu said.

“So we have decided to come up with a specialisation training that will cater for pulmonary rehabilitation.”

Christine Muya of Amref International University, said there was need to enlighten communities on importance of training in physiotherapy.

Stroke, she said, is a global problem that physiotherapist can manage.

“We can work in ICU, wards and even at home... There is need to spread the message looking also at the global market,” Muya said.

Physiotherapy training is offered at KMTC, Amref International University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, among other institutions.

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