SUNBURY, PA — Like many businesses, Phoenix Physical Therapy had to change its business amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
While patient traffic has dropped as residents follow stay-at-home orders, Caroline Opperman, facility director at Phoenix’s Sunbury clinic, said they are still seeing up to 70 patients a week. Some patients still visit clinics, while Opperman said there has been an uptick in telemedicine and in-home visits.
“We’re still probably seeing, on average, about 70 patients a week and things are picking back again,” she said, noting a drop of the normal flow of between 100 and 150 patients a week. “We are getting some people on workman’s compensation claims. We’re not doing too bad. But some people are surprised we are still open.”
“It’s going up and up down a little bit,” Chelsea Howe, co-facility director in Sunbury, said. “At first, not many people were coming in because they were worried (about COVID-19). But people have grown more comfortable with it, and it’s starting to pick up. It’s kind of nice; people are getting used to this new normal.”
Some visits can be handled with telemedicine, allowing for maximum social distancing. In those cases, physical therapists walk patients through exercises they can do at home. It does present some challenges, Opperman said.
“We can show them some massaging techniques, but it can be restricting,” she said. “In some cases, there are hands-on techniques that have their spouses help them with.”
Eduardo Velasco, of Harrisburg, was in the Sunbury facility last week for treatment. He was injured on the job, and while being placed on light duty, he is under rehabilitation.
“I am happy they are open,” he said. “It allows me to do my job. I am an essential. I want to get better as fast as I can so I can provide for my family.”
Howe and Opperman said all Phoenix facilities are following strict social distancing guidelines and taking proper precautions — masks and gloves — for in-home visits.
Chairs have been spaced out throughout waiting rooms, and appointments are staggered, so not as many people are on-site at the same time. Everything in the facilities is sanitized regularly, all physical therapists wear masks and gloves, and patients wear masks.
Hand sanitizer is available in the clinics as well.
“Some have said they don’t want to come in, so we are doing everything we can to make them feel safe,” said Opperman.
The masks do present one challenge, Howe said.
“While we still are doing what did previously, I can’t get the personal interaction we usually get. I can’t see personal expressions,” Howe said.
“We base a lot of what we do off facial expressions, how someone reacts, any pain, and with masks, we can’t really see it.
“We are doing what we can, but I ready for things to get back to normal. I think everybody is getting more comfortable with what is going on.”