Physical therapists are disappointed at the arrangement regarding treating patients without a doctor’s referral, saying there are too many restrictions.
It comes after the administration proposed earlier to amend the Supplementary Medical Professionals Ordinance, allowing physical therapists and occupational therapists to receive patients without doctors’ referrals. However, patients must obtain a doctor’s diagnosis within a year, report the therapy to a family doctor afterward or in an emergency to receive the therapy directly.
Speaking on radio yesterday, president of the Hong Kong Physiotherapy Association Marco Pang Yiu-chung said physical therapists are disappointed at the arrangement, as getting a doctor’s diagnosis is “not much different” from the current practice of requiring a referral.
“Under the three circumstances, two of them require patients to seek a doctor’s diagnosis before the therapy,” Pang said.
He said patients should be allowed to decide whether they would like to see doctors first or directly seek help through a physical therapists, saving both time and money.
“But the arrangement requires a doctor’s diagnosis After all, patients still have to see a doctor first,” he explained.
“Currently, even if we have a referral letter from a doctor, we will still do screenings and assessments for patients instead of relying on the letter. In this case, I don’t think the referral is necessary as we have our professional judgment.”
Tim Pang Hung-cheong, a patients’ rights advocate from the Society for Community Organization, also said that it will pose a challenge to patients if they need to get a diagnosis within 12 months before the therapy.
“Patients should be allowed to seek professional help as soon as possible and don’t need to see a doctor first,” he said.
He claimed that a well-trained physical therapist is able to tell if a patient needs physical therapy directly or if they must see a doctor.
“The proposal shows that the government lacks confidence in the professional ability of physical therapists in Hong Kong, and thus introduce many restrictions,” Tim Pang added, urging to further examine the proposal and ease the restrictions.
Medical and health services sector lawmaker David Lam Tzit-yuen said physical therapists in Hong Kong are professional and well-recognized globally, adding that they are helpful when doctors are not immediately available.
For example, doctors only make two visits to an elderly care home per week, and meanwhile, physical therapists can help with urgent medical conditions, including elderly residents’ shortness of breath and excessive sputum, when doctors are not available, he said.