PESHAWAR: The government’s move to include physiotherapists in the Pakistan Allied Health Professionals and Paramedics Council has beset the members of Pakistan Physical Therapy Association that was promised formation of a separate overseeing body to regulate its education and practice, according to sources.

“We have been struggling for formation of a council for physical therapy for the past seven years but last month the federal health task force decided to make us part of the allied council, causing unrest among the professional physiotherapists,” Dr Mahboobur Rehman, former chairman of Board of Directors of PPTA, told Dawn.

He said that non-existence of a regulatory council was hampering promotion of physiotherapy services including non-pharmaceutical interventions and exercises for body pains and rehabilitation of people with disabilities to a desired level.

Seek formation of separate overseeing body to regulate their education, practice

Last year, federal cabinet approved a draft for setting up Pakistan Physical Therapy Council that was sent to law department, he said. He added that the draft was about to be approved but last month Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination was asked by national health task force to include it in the allied council, which was meant for paramedics.

Paramedics take admission in different medical disciplines after matriculation and are categorised as support staff whereas physical therapists complete their five-year doctor of physiotherapy degree and take admission in institutions after getting 60 per cent marks in FSc (pre-medical) group.

“According to WHO, physiotherapists are involved in direct treatment of patients due to which they fall in the category of health professionals and there are separate bodies for tem in European countries,” said Dr Mahboob.

He said that the government’ decision disappointed more than 25,000 doctors of physical therapy in the country. He said that there were 163 institutions in the country that produced more than 1,000 doctors every year. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has 26 such colleges.

In 2016, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa launched ‘Strengthening of Rehabilitation Programme for Physically Disabled’ under which 50 physical therapists, one each male and female, were deployed at 25 district headquarters hospitals.

The programme has been benefitting 160,000 people suffering from low back pain, poliomyelitis, arthritis, knee joint pain, cerebral palsy, stroke or those requiring physical exercises after recovering from fractures or the ones seeking cure for postoperative problems.

“We hoped that Prime minister Imran Khan would take steps to launch similar programmes nationwide but he latest move to put us in the allied council has brought us great disappointment,” said Dr Mahboob, the pioneer of the physical therapy, in the province.

He said that an independent council should be established to ensure quality education and delivery of quality services. “Physiotherapists are doing MS and PhDs from the institutions recognised by Higher Education Commission and there is a need for a council on the pattern of doctors, nurses and pharmacists,” he added.

Dr Mahboob said that physiotherapists should be given complete service structure with chances of promotion up to basic pay scale 20 as they were recognised health professional worldwide.

“The government’s move to place them (physical therapists) in allied health sciences will discourage the young professionals and this discipline will suffer decline,” he said. In the absence of a council, the physiotherapists are not allowed to receive patients directly and as result, people rely on medical doctors.

“The services also include occupational therapy in which handicapped people are trained on how to hold pen, change clothes, wear socks and shoes and attend bathrooms in addition to driving vehicles by carrying out modification to ensure their accessibilities through changing patterns and alternation,” said Dr Mahboob.

He said that patients from surgical, orthopedic, plastic surgery, paeds, gyne, medical, neurology and intensive care unit were also benefitted from physical therapy.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2019