KUALA LUMPUR: Community-based rehabilitation centres may be the answer to make occupational therapy more accessible.
Sunday Star had earlier reported that many Malaysians had to travel hundreds of kilometres for rehabilitation in the Klang Valley, where the majority of occupational therapists (OT) in Malaysia are based.
Centres within a neighbourhood bring OT services closer to the patients, ensuring that patients do not need to travel far to seek help.
They help patients recover faster; for example, those who need rehabilitation three to four hours a day but can sleep in their own bed, eat the food they are familiar with and are under the love and care of their families, said World Federation of Occupational Therapists president Marilyn Pattison.
Such centres would also free up hospital resources, she added.
Having served as an OT for 41 years, Pattison suggested more creative healthcare models be looked at to meet the shortage of OTs.
Malaysia has almost four times fewer OTs than the global average, standing at a ratio of only one OT for a population of 17,777, Sunday Star reported.
The situation has forced many patients to wait weeks and sometimes up to two months for treatment.
Prof Nathan Vytialingam agreed that plugging the hole with more OTs was not the answer.
He suggested a change in the present 8am-5pm work model for OTs in public hospitals to make their services more accessible.
“You can’t tell a spinal cord patient, ‘it’s Friday and it’s 5pm, so see you on Monday’,” he said.
Prof Nathan, who is dean of the School of Occupational Therapy at Perdana University, suggested that therapy be made available on weekends too.
Pattison noted that technology could play a bigger role in reaching patients who were far away.
“Specialised OTs can now guide their counterparts on a suitable programme for a patient via video-conferencing, without having to go to the countryside themselves,” she said.
Such models have been implemented in Britain and Australia.
Pattison was here for the recent 2nd World Congress on Community-Based Rehabilitation.
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