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Physical therapy considered essential, but most patients aren’t making appointments

Coronavirus

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The pandemic has made it difficult for many Rhode Islanders to continue with their routine physical therapy appointments, but for residents like Gail Hogan, postponing treatment isn’t an option.

Hogan, who lives in Cranston, has had more than 50 orthopedic surgeries and relies on physical therapy for pain management. She said she doesn’t know what she’d do if her appointments weren’t considered essential.

“I have pain every day and it’s something that you just live with and it’s worse if I’m not in PT,” Hogan said.

Arthur Keegan, a physical therapist at Prehab Sports Medicine in Warwick, tells Eyewitness News his practice is taking a major financial hit due to a substantial decline in patients, but he knows he has to stay open for those who depend on it.

“We’re losing money by staying open, but I just couldn’t sleep at night knowing that somebody just had a total hip replacement and they have nowhere to go to get their rehab,” Keegan said.

Keegan said the practice has had to cut back on hours and is now only open two days a week. He said they normally see around 300 patients on an average week, but because of the pandemic, they’re seeing less than half of that between the two days.

The drastic drop in patients has forced Keegan to furlough seven of his nine physical therapists.

“We’re looking to take advantage of some of the federal programs where we can borrow money and rehire all of our employees back, so we’re in the process of doing that now,” he said.

Keegan recently started offering telehealth appointments this week, which allows him to video chat with patients who are at home. He said it’s been tough for some patients, but it has also had its benefits in terms of safety.

“I had one gentleman that was 92-years-old and I saw about 100 fall risks in his house while he was talking to me on the phone,” Keegan said.

With his practice seeing 70% less patients per week than he’s used to, Keegan worries that if people in recovery put off physical therapy appointments because of the pandemic, they could have serious mobility issues in the future.

“People who have had total hips, total knees, may need to have surgery again because they get joint contractors, they get adhesions in their joints,” Keegan said. “Many patients aren’t getting what they need.”

The American Physical Therapy Association has advised physical therapists to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines when dealing with patients, but are leaving the decision to stay open up to individual practices.

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