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Physiotherapy spinal program aligns with CQUni’s core engagement value

Published:12 January 2017

The CQ Spinal Assessment and Rehabilitation Service (CQSARS), driven by Musculoskeletal Associate Lecturer and Clinic Supervisor Samantha Swain (centre), Physiotherapy Discipline Lead Professor Anthony Schneiders and Health Clinic Manager Helen Bourne garnered a prestigious CQUniversity Opal Award.

Affordable and accessible rehabilitation services are now on offer to spinal patients throughout Central Queensland (CQ), courtesy of a new program implemented by the CQUniversity Health Clinic.

The CQ Spinal Assessment and Rehabilitation Service (CQSARS) is a joint Physiotherapy Referral Pathway program between CQUni’s student-led Physiotherapy Clinic (at the North Rockhampton Campus) and the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH).

The Royal Brisbane  and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) is a tertiary teaching hospital, that provides state-of-the-art healthcare services and participates in world-leading research in order to deliver the best possible patient outcomes.

CQUni project drivers were Musculoskeletal Associate Lecturer and Clinic  Supervisor Samantha Swain, Physiotherapy Discipline Lead Professor Anthony Schneiders and Health Clinic Manager Helen Bourne.

“Prior to the implementation of this service, waiting lists for patients with spinal pain wishing to see a physiotherapist in the public sector was about 12 months,”  Ms Swain said.

“CQSARS now provides patients with an alternative conservative-management plan within the CQ community including individual physiotherapy assessment and treatment sessions.

“Affordable group-based exercise classes for patients with spinal pain are also scheduled to begin this year.

“Overall this service strives to assist local general practitioners whilst minimising the current waiting lists for public physiotherapy services in the region.

“It also enables third-year and fourth-year CQUni Physiotherapy students to gain exposure  to complex and chronic pain/spinal patients.”

Initially, patients with spinal pain are referred to the RBWH Spinal Physiotherapy Screening Clinics to assess their suitability for spinal surgery.

Once assessed and deemed not yet suitable for surgical intervention, patients are recommended to return home on a conservative-management plan.

This involves either a referral to public health physiotherapy or a prescribed plan of five allied health appointments a year by the patient’s general practitioner, with follow-up consultations completed every three-to-four months at the RBWH.

“Unfortunately, this conservative management plan does not achieve the desired outcomes first intended; it’s resulted in the public sector being inundated with chronic pain referrals, and 12-month waiting lists,” Ms Swain said.

“While patients who require earlier input can self-fund to see a private physiotherapist, this is often unaffordable.

“These unfortunate limitations also resulted in patients being lost or incorrectly prioritised on the waiting list for surgical interventions.

“Our spinal assessment  and rehabilitation referral pathway program aims to reduce public-sector waiting lists for Queensland Health by offering an additional and affordable service to the region, delivering a more streamlined referral process, and providing general practitioners with a local rehabilitation pathway.”

Since its September inception, the clinic has assessed 15 chronic pain/spinal patients; referral numbers are increasing and group classes will begin this year.

Ms Swain said CQUniversity was grateful to RBWH for the opportunity to collaboratively deliver a program that would enhance the care of spinal patients throughout CQ.

“We’re also looking forward to meeting with the Advanced Scope Physiotherapy Department to further build this service, in addition to involving other allied health disciplines in the future,” she said.

The CQ Spinal Assessment and Rehabilitation Service is the proud recipient of the prestigious Engaged Service Award in CQUniversity’s 2016 Opal Awards for Excellence in Engagement.