By Surihe Gaomas
There is a dire shortage of physiotherapists in the country’s public health sector, according to statistics from the Namibian Society of Physiotherapy (NSP) that reveals there is only 65 registered practising physiotherapists in the entire country.
And only one out of the 65 works at one of the State hospitals.
This is the concern with which NSP is commemorating International Physiotherapy week, which started on September 8 and ends on September 17.
The week is primarily geared towards improving awareness of physiotherapy as a profession and also its role in improving the health of the nation.
In Namibia, Physiotherapy Day was celebrated on Saturday under the theme: “Physiotherapy on the Move”.
Speaking to New Era yesterday, qualified physiotherapist and committee member of NSP, Christine Nashenda said a lot still needs to be done to encourage more young Namibians to enter this noble medical profession.
“It appears that our public are not aware of physiotherapy as a profession, that is why it is important to promote the profession more,” said Nashenda.
This year, NSP aims to recruit more students to study this four-year science degree, while at the same time raising awareness of the importance and need of physiotherapy services, especially in state hospitals countrywide.
Another challenge is that the degree course in physiotherapy is not offered in Namibia, and most students find it difficult to get financial assistance to study in South Africa.
“It is a very competitive programme, because only 40 students are admitted per university in South Africa, so you are also competing for places with South African students,” said Nashenda.
Physiotherapists use their hands, mechanical and electrical machines as well as natural elements like heat and cold to assist clients in the alleviation of pain, restoration to good health and enhancing mobility.
If it is not possible for the client to be completely restored, the physiotherapists will assist with the rehabilitation, to allow the client to live a full life within the restrictions of his or her disability.
It so happens that many people suffer from backache and neck pain without really realising the fact that they need physiotherapy treatment.
“We treat mostly pain and we try our best to get you mobile to lead an independent and functional life again. For example, if you were involved in a car accident you may have a fracture in the leg or spinal cord, we can then put you on a rehabilitation programme,” explained Nashenda, who has been in the profession for the past four years.
Ailments that can be treated by a physiotherapist include head injuries, sports injuries, abdominal surgery, spinal cord injuries, fractured bones, joint, nerve or muscle injuries as well as bronchitis, asthma and chronic lung conditions.
It appears that the lack of qualified Namibian physiotherapist is a long-standing issue dating right back to just before independence. The few that do enter this field only stay in the public health sector for a short while before moving to the private sector.
While bigger towns like Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Windhoek are flooded with physiotherapists, rural areas are virtually empty. Furthermore, very few physiotherapists are from the disadvantaged group, while the vast majority of them are recruited from countries like Cuba and Zimbabwe, who come on a two-year working contract.