Physical therapy centers stay open with stringent Covid protocols
Newton. Sanitation, masking, and telehealth make keeping appointments safe in this high-touch profession.
By Laurie Gordon
Bones break, ligaments and cartilage tear, accidents happen. And so does aging. None of this stops when a pandemic hits, making physical therapists essential.
Since the pandemic struck our area in March, Drayer Physical Therapy Institute, Ivy Physical Therapy and Trinity Physical Therapy never closed. By quickly instituting mandated protocols and telehealth, they’ve continued to help those in need of rehab and recovery.
“At the beginning and through the height of the pandemic, we were only offering the telehealth option,” said Drayer’s director, Joe Allison. “This actually turned out to be a viable option for folks in the community to gain access to our physical therapy services without having to leave home.”
Telehealth is a secure online platform that gives the physical therapist and patient a safe face-to-face encounter without the health risk. “The obvious downside is the inability to deliver manual therapies,” Allison said. “But the upside is that you can view the patient’s living area and make recommendations regarding safety and movement.”
Currently, Drayer is offering both in-clinic and telehealth sessions.
Drayer’s protocols have been in place since late February at each of its clinics, including Sparta and Flanders in New Jersey, and Milford, Pennsylvania. Every patient, staff member, family member, delivery worker, and community member that enters the facilities must be wearing a facial mask or shield and submit to a forehead temperature scan. They must use the supplied hand sanitizer station upon entering and leaving the clinics. All plinths and exercise equipment are sanitized before and after each use. All patients and staff are vigilant in observing the six-foot self-distancing rule.
Allison graduated from physical therapy school in 1989 and a member of the McKenzie Institute International since 1996. He began working for Luke Drayer in January 1997 and with Joyner Sports Medicine Institute through July 2003. He has worked for Drayer Physical Therapy in Sparta since August 2003.
Drayer seeks out physical therapists who are hungry to grow in their clinical-reasoning and manual skills. “Just as important, they must also be great communicators and naturally-compassionate empathizers,” Allison said.
Drayer is primarily an ortho-sports clinic but also sees patients who struggle with balance, concussions, and vestibular disturbances. More recently, Allison has seen the consequences of the pandemic. “We have seen more patients who are experiencing symptoms from the de-conditioning that appears to be a natural byproduct of this recent pandemic and folks who are now working and schooling remotely from home,” he said.
‘A bridge in care’
Amanda Cook is the clinical director at Trinity Rehab on Route 15 in Sparta. She graduated from Ithaca College in 2010 with her doctorate in physical therapy and has worked in a variety of outpatient physical therapy clinics for almost 10 years, the last 5 in Sparta.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, our facility has increased our already high cleaning standards,” she said. “We use hand sanitizer every 30 minutes for our staff and any patients in the facility. We also wipe down high-touch surfaces every 30 minutes. Any table, chair, pen or equipment that a patient touches gets sanitized after each use. We also take all temperatures prior to coming back into the gym.”
Patients fill out a screening questionnaire before each session. All staff members and patients to wear masks at all times while in the facility.
Trinity has also implemented telehealth, which Cook said allowed patients to perform exercises under supervision and continue their progress. Some patients did a hybrid of in-person and telehealth. “The great thing about telehealth is that it allowed a bridge in care until the patient felt it was safe enough to return to in-person treatments,” Cook said.
Trinity offers Extracorporeal Pulse Activated Technology (EPAT), a non-invasive treatment for acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain that triggers the body’s natural healing response. Its Alter G treadmill allows patients to improve weight bearing function in a controlled environment that Cook says reduces pain.
Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy has locations in Newton, Montague, and Sparta. The director of physical therapy, Lance Baumgartner, has been practicing since 2013 and heads the Sparta division. “We do temperature checks and everyone must wear a mask while in the facility,” he said. “Everything that someone touches is put on a specific table and thoroughly wiped.”
At Ivy, machines are cleaned before and after each use, and telehealth is an option for those at high risk for the virus or those who simply don’t want to go in. Every couple of weeks, the facility is fogged for complete sanitation.
“On of the things that sets Ivy apart is our Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) machine for strengthening,” Baumgartner said.
We’ve moved out of quarantine, but clearly, protection against the spread of the virus is paramount. These physical therapy centers are helping people get back on their feet, back to their jobs, and feeling better.
“We have seen more patients who are experiencing symptoms from the de-conditioning that appears to be a natural byproduct of this recent pandemic and folks who are now working and schooling remotely from home.” —Joe Allison, Drayer Physical Therapy Institute