Mongolia Faces Shortage in Rehabilitation Therapists

Mongolia has made significant strides in developing its healthcare services but there are many areas that can be improved further. One of these areas is rehabilitation therapy services, which is crucial for restoring patients to their highest level of functioning.

There is a high demand for physical therapists (PT) and occupational therapists (OT) who can help the growing number of patients suffering from strokes and traffic accidents in Mongolia, according to research by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). People who are suffering due to accidents, diseases such as arthritis, and those recovering from surgeries, stroke, or paralysis can experience limitations in self-care, impaired mobility, balance and coordination, limitations in joint strength or motion, speech and communication problems, as well as changes in memory, thought processing, reasoning and rational thinking. Therapists can help these people regain their abilities and independence.

O.Zolzaya, head of the Rehabilitation Therapy Department at the Second State Central Hospital, explained the difference between a PT and OT.

'People who had a stroke usually can't walk, stand up, go to the bathroom, or get on and off the bed. Specialists who help patients do these activities on their own by helping them regain their strength, mobility and fitness are called PT. Currently, Mongolian PT have work experience of six to seven years. The Second State Central Hospital employs four PT at the moment. Meanwhile, an OT helps patients perform daily activities.

For example, a brain stroke patient loses his/ her ability to comb their hair, wash their face, brush their teeth, take a shower/ bath, cook, and eat. They also face cognitive disorders, which means that they can't differentiate colors, calculate, and/ or recognize their family. OT helps patients in these areas.'

An expert in this field said that large hospitals in Mongolia have only two to three PT, but are in shortage of OT. The first group of Mongolian PT graduated in 2011 and six people graduated as OT in June 2018.

As occupational therapy is new to Mongolia and there aren't specialists with adequate experience or enough people to work as a team, the Second State Central Hospital requested JICA's assistance so that they can bring a Japanese OT volunteer to train the staff. Accordingly, JICA brought experienced Japanese OT Rika Nonami to Mongolia for a period of two years. She used to work as an OT in Japan, mainly...

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