Responding to the evolving demands of delivering a physiotherapy service during the COVID-19 pandemic in a metropolitan Melbourne health service

Mrs Lisa Beach1, Ms Alana Jacob1, Ms Jacqueline Kay1

1The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne, Australia

The COVID-19 pandemic required significant changes to be made to physiotherapy service delivery to keep the workforce safe and maintain high quality patient care delivery.

Maintain staff safety, mitigate risks, and provide high quality patient care.

Observational study of changes to a physiotherapy service (95EFT) during the pandemic.

Evaluation of a multifaceted approach to pandemic planning including staff upskilling, transition from unit to ward based care, separation of clinical teams, development of clinical guidelines and wellbeing strategies. Outcomes: number of critical care trained staff; furlough, absentee and attrition rates; occasion’s priority patients not seen; staff satisfaction and COVID related output.

In the COVID-19 peak (August 2020) at our hospital, there were 99 positive inpatients and 126 positive staff. 256 staff were furloughed including 18 (two-week) episodes from physiotherapy. Critical care trained staff increased from 24 to 51. Absenteeism increased by 3% from 2019 to 2020, including COVID leave. Attrition rate 1.6% 2019, 1.7% 2020. Zero occasions priority patients not seen between 13/7/20 – 4/9/20. Top two things that make it a great place to work (n=70): Great staff/supportive team n=64, role variety n=23, striving for excellence n=20. New COVID-19 output included two guidelines, two research projects, and delivery of four presentations (professional development or conferences).

Strategies implemented appeared to be effective at minimising staff infection/furlough rates, maintaining clinical care provision and staff satisfaction in a challenging work environment. A flexible approach with clear communication is valuable to working effectively in a pandemic


Jacqui Kay is the Grade 4 Clinical Lead Physiotherapist for Aged Care at the Royal Melbourne Hospital sub-acute campus. Jacqui has a passion for Physiotherapy management for those with chronic diseases and vulnerable populations, improving team culture amongst Physiotherapists, and has completed extensive work in these fields during her career both in Australia and the United Kingdom.

Jacqui has completed a Master in Health Services Management, an Advanced Practice Physiotherapy in Diabetes role, presented at national and international conferences, and most recently has been successful in obtaining grant funding to evaluate increased Allied Health staffing on a newly established Acute Care of the Elderly unit.

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