The physiotherapist involved in some of Kerry’s most memorable All-Ireland SFC successes is playing a leading global role in assisting patients rehabilitate from coronavirus.
Through her Tralee-based company Salaso, Aoife Ní Mhuirí, who worked with Páidí Ó Sé and Jack O’Connor for almost 10 years, has developed as part of her software platform physio programmes that recovering Covid-19 patients and their medics can access remotely.
Employing 20 people, Salaso has blossomed as it has provided evidence-based physical therapy via its app, which incorporates video technology so that physical rehab sessions can be conducted virtually.
However, Covid-19 has increased the demand for the expertise provided by the company. “Everybody has been focused on the acute needs of people on ventilators and so on,” says Ní Mhuirí, “but what people don’t understand is if you have been on a ventilator you are going to need rehab possibly for a couple of months and maybe up to even a year.
“Professor Mick Thacker in London has been invaluable to us in creating our evidence-based strategy and we were speaking to a group in the UK recently who claimed that if everybody that needs rehab post-Covid was to get rehab in the traditional sense that alone would bankrupt the NHS. They’re actually calling it in the UK the tsunami of rehabilitation needs of patients for the next 12 to 18 months.
“If you think about who are at most risk of this disease, they are the ones who are most in need of rehabilitation anyway and then add to it the after-effects of the disease. People are going to have significant requirements for rehabilitation and exercise prescription and so on.
“The one thing about Covid is it’s not one size fits all; you have to individualise and customise. What our platform effectively does is increase the capacity of individual services. For one physiotherapist, you can reach the information and expertise to a lot more patients.”
The crisis has opened the medical world’s eyes to how it can operate more efficiently and safely, according to Ní Mhuiri.
“Covid has changed the mindset not just of the physicians but the patients so people are more open to linking in with your physio over a video call and getting your physio to show you exercises or sending you videos of what you need to do because people don’t necessarily want to be going to hospitals or clinics at this point in time, and that’s going to continue because we’re not going to get a vaccine anytime soon.
“There are many people who will benefit hugely from the increased wifi technology of hospitals and clinics so if you are based in Ballyferriter or the Beara Peninsula you can actually do a video call now with your consultant. Think of the time, effort and money that is going to save many people and the benefit of access to healthcare for people in rural communities.
“In the NHS now, they’re not talking about a recovery but a reset and taking this opportunity and what they’ve learned from keeping people out of hospitals and using those ideas to see how they can set themselves up for the future.
“If we can take ownership of what we can do to make ourselves better, it will ease the burden on the health system and there is more expertise with the patient themselves.” Among the groups working with Salaso are the HSE, the NHS as well as New York’s No1 healthcare network Northwell Health, which is run by former Limerick hurler Michael Dowling.
“We put this right across the platform so that any of the Irish or English hospitals using our system could keep their patients out of hospital and continue to deliver services. We actually took the decision at the start of March to make available for free for two months.”
Connemara native Ní Mhuirí has fond memories of her work with the Kerry seniors especially Ó Sé. “I had huge time for him and would have soldiered with him. The thing about Páidí was I had a great working relationship with him and huge respect for him but you couldn’t time him. You did not know what he was going to say when the phone rang. It was unpredictable. You learned to live with the unpredictability. He was Kerry to the core. Everything he ever did, any instruction he gave me, it was always for Kerry.”