Rehabilitation in disasters and health emergencies
Early rehabilitation in disasters and health emergencies refers to the initial rehabilitation care that is provided as early as possible following an injury or illness. The purpose of early rehabilitation is to prevent complications, optimise long term outcomes and quality of life, support safe and timely discharge from inpatient care and facilitate engagement of longer term rehabilitation and other support services wherever possible. Early rehabilitation integrates patient, caregiver and family education into all activities. AUSMAT rehabilitation professionals may provide early rehabilitation treatment for fractures, burns, spinal cord and nerve injuries, brain injuries, infectious diseases, amputations and a wide variety of other injuries and illnesses. A small cache of basic assistive devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, commodes and walking frames is maintained at the NCCTRC in readiness for deployment at short notice.
AUSMAT rehabilitation professionals have a strong focus on capacity building. All deployment activities present an opportunity to share knowledge and skills with local rehabilitation professionals and other health care workers to strengthen clinical care and disaster response capabilities. In practice, this is a reciprocal two-way learning experience with AUSMAT rehabilitation professionals gaining important knowledge and experiences alongside their local counterparts.
The AUSMAT rehabilitation workforce
AUSMAT rehabilitation professionals are Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists who have the skills and experience necessary to work effectively in disaster or health emergency environments. AUSMAT rehabilitation professionals work in a trans-disciplinary manner and rather than being deployed according to professional group, are deployed according to their specific skill set. This ensures specialty skills can be drawn from either Occupational Therapists or Physiotherapists to ensure appropriate comprehensive care for each unique deployment scenario. Each AUSMAT rehabilitation professional is required to have a clear understanding of their safe scope of practice, and work in accordance with their respective professional registration and profession’s Code of Ethics, both local and international.