The Covid-19 pandemic knocked the Yellowknife Physiotherapy (YKPT) Sport and Rehab Clinic off balance for a few months, before it regained its footing.
Formerly known as LCP Health, the clinic changed its name in February to reflect its expansion.
Last month, it hired Grecia Delgadillo, a full-time physiotherapist, to keep up with demand and the physiotherapists want to focus more on athletic physiotherapy.
“(We’re) moving more in a sports-oriented direction, to give a clear message to the community about our offerings,” said Adam Bailey, one of the lead physiotherapists at the clinic. “Amanda (Tritton) and I have a sports background. There are a lot of high-level athletes, especially young kids in Yellowknife. Under ‘LCP’ it was hard to communicate what we provided.”
Virtual care a lifeline in lockdown
But almost one year ago when the pandemic arrived in the NWT, the clinic faced the same difficulties as almost all other services and businesses.
It closed down in late March and took no clients for a few weeks as Bailey and Tritton – his partner and fellow physiotherapist – figured out how to operate a virtual care system.
“There was so much uncertainty in that period, when we were in lockdown, not knowing if we’ll ever get back and reopen and how it will look when we reopen,” Bailey recalled.
They took some time to find an interface that was accessible on any device and not too complex to use. They eventually adopted an online, browser-based service.
“You don’t need to download an app,” Bailey said. “You just go online and people are put into our virtual waiting room. I was surprised at how few technological miscues there were.”
In the months of virtual appointments, Bailey and Tritton were seeing about half of their usual number of clients.
Not being able to see customers in person limited the care they could provide.
It was, for example, harder to assess peoples’ strength or test their muscle performance.
The pair had to become more creative in their approach.
“We’re really into education and exercise to help people achieve their goals. That can be done with virtual care. We made a little guide about household items and how much they weigh, so that people don’t have to go to a gym to lift things,” Bailey said.
“Get some laundry detergent and I can tell you how much it weighs,” he laughed.
During the months of lockdown and afterwards, Bailey and Tritton noticed an increase in aches and pains associated with people working in home offices.
“Some peoples’ office set ups weren’t as comfortable as they could be. There was more upper back and neck pain and lower back, too. There was a lot more stress in people. Just because of the unknown that the pandemic brought. I think people also found it challenging to work from home,” Bailey said.
Virtual care to stay
They resumed in-person appointments in June but the virtual sessions will continue for the foreseeable future.
The clinic appreciates the wider reach that virtual appointments offer.
“We can see clients all over the NWT now, which is really nice,” Bailey said. “We have clients from Nahanni Butte and Fort Simpson and Norman Wells. We’ll have some clients who will start virtually and then if they want to come in person we can make that recommendation for them. We can continue their care virtually after they visit us from the comfort of their own house.”
Comfortable space for now
As the NWT’s vaccination program continues and brings the prospect of resuming some aspects of pre-pandemic life, the physiotherapists feel they can be patient.
They miss their families in Ontario, whom they haven’t seen in one year, but the clinic is doing well enough that it doesn’t necessarily need a return to normalcy for now.
Bailey expects that mask-wearing and social distancing will still be a part of daily life in six months, regardless of vaccination progress.
“We’re not desperate for a return because we’re at capacity and we’re having a hard time keeping up with referrals,” he said.