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Physiotherapy – In emergency settings too

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Physiotherapy – In emergency settings too

Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) increasingly calls on the services of physiotherapists during its emergency interventions. Integral to post-surgery, their work is key to the delivery of quality care. Haiti, after the earthquake… Libya during the revolution… And at the moment in Central African Republic where a violent conflict is raging.

In settings such as these where medical teams provide emergency treatment, the physiotherapist plays a vital role. Present in operating theatres, on wards and in outpatient departments… sometimes working in cooperation with other NGOs… the physiotherapist delivers the care patients need to help them regain the best quality of life possible.

Julien Clausse, physiotherapy advisor, Médecins Sans Frontières (in French):
Physiotherapy starts immediately after an operation (…) to avoid patients developing disabling conditions that can occur very quickly if nothing is done. So we try to prevent stiffening of the knees and ankles and muscle wasting to get patients back on their feet as soon as possible and shorten the time they have to spend in hospital.

At the general hospital in Bangui, many patients have bullet or knife wounds. Day in, day out, physiotherapy sessions help them to recover. Tahir has fifteen machete wounds. He’s already spent several weeks in hospital but his condition continues to give cause for concern. Today is the first time he manages a few steps beyond his room. In Central African Republic, as is often the case in emergency settings, the physiotherapists don’t need sophisticated equipment, just some simple movements can help stave off complications.

Julien Clausse, physiotherapy advisor, Médecins Sans Frontières (in French):
In emergency settings, once patients are discharged we often have difficulty in getting them to do physiotherapy as they don’t always live in the region and have a long way to come, (…) In these cases, the physiotherapist must focus on accompanying the patient and the people round him to make sure that when he’s discharged, he understands why he has to keep up with the exercises.

Because treating patients also means making sure that when they leave hospital they’ll be able to go back to their lives and jobs and look after their families. In countries where infrastructure has been wiped out, part of the doctor’s work is helping wounded people regain their independence.

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