Montreal Children's Hospital hopes for return of physiotherapists in ER

·2 min read
The emergency room staff at the Montreal Children's Hospital really benefited from having physiotherapists on board to help with patients that needed immediate care, says Isabelle Gagnon, who led the pilot that ended June.  (Craig Desson/CBC - image credit)
The emergency room staff at the Montreal Children's Hospital really benefited from having physiotherapists on board to help with patients that needed immediate care, says Isabelle Gagnon, who led the pilot that ended June. (Craig Desson/CBC - image credit)

There's hope physiotherapists could return to the Montreal Children's Hospital ER after a six-month pilot project helped reduce the wait times and stress on emergency staff.

Until June, physiotherapists had worked three days per week in the department, tending to kids that needed immediate care but not help from emergency physicians.

They included children suffering from concussions, sprained ankles or shoulder and back pain — problems that would usually be dealt with by a triage nurse and later a doctor.

"They're autonomous, independent professionals who we felt would have something to provide to kids who come to the emergency department not absolutely needing urgent care," said Isabelle Gagnon, the physiotherapist at the hospital who led the pilot.

"We thought that would be a better alternative to using the physicians and nursing staff's time."

Submitted by Isabelle Gagnon
Submitted by Isabelle Gagnon

The pilot at the Children's cut wait times and parents they surveyed were satisfied to see the change in services, Gagnon said. There were also fewer delays in arranging follow ups for the kids with more severe injuries.

The project is one of several in Quebec that have been providing support from physiotherapists to ERs, the province's Health Ministry said in a statement.

The ER occupancy rate in Quebec reached 117 per cent on Monday afternoon, according to public health data, up from the last 10 days. At the Children's, it reached 167 per cent.

Gagnon hopes more funding will come to continue the project.

"Next stage might be to try to remove the physician visit altogether for very minor problems," she said.

In a statement, a ministry spokesperson said it has yet to decide whether it's considering adding permanent physiotherapists in ERs like the Children's.

'A game changer'

Permanently integrating physiotherapists into ERs would allow the government to save on health-care expenses, said Simon Dalle-Vedove, president of the Association québécoise de la physiothérapie.

Studies across the country have shown time and time again that physiotherapists in ERs lead to less imaging, fewer prescriptions and a lower likelihood of patients returning for care, he said.

Submitted by the Association québécoise de la physiothérapie
Submitted by the Association québécoise de la physiothérapie

They've already been brought on board in British and Australian ERs, Dalle-Vedove added.

"It's a game changer," Dalle-Vedove said. "When a physical therapist sees the patient, they take the time to explain the problem to the patient, take the time to explain how to manage their issue."