The alarm: “People have been injured by canceled rehabilitation”

Canceled rehabilitation during the pandemic risks leading to permanent injuries in people who have not received the care they need. It now warns both chief physicians and several industry and patient associations.

One of those affected is Tina Wronski Petersen, who has a neuromuscular disease that requires regular physical therapy.

– It has become very clear here during the shutdown that the functions have deteriorated, that it was not just a question of a good or bad day but that even though I did everything I could to maintain and make things work, it did not that, she says.

– I get contractures in my hands that they sort of contract. Then something as simple as putting on the clothes becomes a slightly bigger job than usual, because you can not hold the fabric in the same way and buttons are completely excluded.

Many rehabilitation efforts has been suspended during the pandemic due to the risk of infection spreading. It is precisely people who, just like Tina Wronski Petersen, have various neurological diseases that seem to suffer the most.

Many times, rehabilitation is not about regaining mobility, but about not losing the abilities you have, describes Katharina Stibrant Sunnerhagen who is chief physician in rehabilitation medicine at Sahlgrenska in Gothenburg.

– You can develop what we call contractures so you get misalignments in joints and once they have arrived, they are very difficult to resolve, she says.

An overwhelming majority of the patient association Neuroförbundets members who usually have rehabilitation state for the association that regular meetings with physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists have been canceled during the pandemic, says the association’s chairman Lise Lidbäck.

– We have already during this short time that the pandemic has been going on seen that people have been harmed by this. And that is not acceptable, we must do something about this together.

Also for the trade association Many physiotherapists state that they have deteriorated due to the suspension of their rehabilitation.

– Because there have been so many impaired opportunities for rehabilitation, there is an increased risk of, for example, fall injuries, pneumonia and an increased risk of pressure ulcers. There is a risk that you can not actually get up and walk more. In some cases, we have seen from the municipalities that they have set up aids tests such as walkers or lifts. These are vital and crucial things for people to be able to manage their daily health, says Stefan Jutterdal, union chairman of the Physiotherapists.

In Stockholm, among other places, the planned rehabilitation care has been suspended since March. Something that may have had consequences for some patients, according to Kristian Borg who is chief physician for rehabilitation medicine at Danderyd Hospital.

– Intensive and early rehabilitation is what is most important, especially when it comes to brain damage and stroke. So it may be that you have a number of patients who have had worse conditions for rehabilitation as they have had to postpone the rehabilitation, he says.

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