COVID-19 throws spotlight on allied health, as World Allied Health Professionals Day celebrated

New Zealand’s response to COVID-19 has seen thousands of health professionals across the country working tirelessly to help minimise and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Today is World Allied Health Professionals day – a chance to celebrate the people working across the at least 43 professions that make up the allied health, scientific and technical workforce in New Zealand. Today’s also a chance to raise awareness of how these professions contribute to New Zealand’s health and disability sector.

The day has its origins in the United Kingdom after a dietician and speech therapist first had the idea and has since been taken up as an international day of recognition and appreciation.

The Ministry Chief Allied Health Professions Officer Dr Martin Chadwick says today is about highlighting the hard work by the entire allied health sector.

“Now more than ever, the importance of working together has been reinforced as our response to COVID-19 continues.

“There are a diverse range of professionals working in allied health, in different settings, right across New Zealand. In fact, there are at-least 43 professions, making up roughly a third of our health and disability workforce. All of them deserve recognition today, COVID-19 or no COVID-19. Quite often, they’ll be the first point of contact for patients or others using our health system.

“Allied health is a big sector, with significant potential and we want to continue highlighting as much of the good work as often as possible in the years to come. In particular this year, I’ve been speaking with a number of practitioners who’ve worked differently during COVID-19 and under immense pressure,” says Dr Chadwick.

“We’ve seen our laboratory scientists process more than one million COVID-19 tests, while our dental staff have stepped into Community Based Assessment Centres to swab and process hundreds of people lining up for testing. A significant number of private physiotherapy, chiropractic, and osteopathy providers closed their services during Level 4 to join the team of five million in pursuing prevention and protection.

“In my role, I’ve heard stories of dental staff in Whanganui who, for example, when faced with a forced leave of absence as a result of Alert Level 4, volunteered themselves to help out at Whanganui Hospital’s CBAC.

“COVID-19 has also given cause for new initiatives, such as the use of telehealth, to give patients a virtual face-to-face experience in an environment where physical interaction was not always possible.

“Allied health professionals have risen to the challenge, embracing this new way of working.

“As we look ahead to the future of healthcare, the value of allied health is evident as they continue to provide services that prevent deterioration, sustain your health and wellbeing, and maintain your independence.

“New Zealand’s health and disability sector is full of passionate people. As Chief Allied Health Professions’ Officer, I see this passion on a daily basis across the sector and in all sorts of different settings. Our allied health professionals are an integral part of the sector and I want to thank them,” says Dr Chadwick.

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