More precautions when physiotherapists treat women

Extra precautions are usually taken by physiotherapists when they treat female patients, including having a woman chaperone in the room.

And if clothing has to be removed for treatment, consent is required and a gown could be provided, physiotherapists told The Straits Times.

The professional conduct demanded of physiotherapists here was put under the spotlight after a physiotherapist was sentenced to 11 months' jail and three strokes of the cane last week for molesting a female patient during treatment.

Luke Manimaran Degarajoo, 43, was found guilty of molesting an 18-year-old twice after rolling down her underwear and shorts during the massage.

During the session, the victim's friend waited outside while the door was half shut at the Rehab Physio Practice in Delfi Orchard.

Mr Joseph Wong, a physiotherapist at Orchard Physiotherapy Centre, said when treating a female patient, a woman chaperone is usually present.

" This is especially if the treatment concerns sensitive areas, such as near the breasts or genital areas.

"It is also important to explain to the patient what the treatment will include, to avoid misunderstandings," said the 61-year-old, adding that if the patient requests a female physiotherapist, he will usually direct them to somebody else.

While the removal of clothing might be necessary in some cases - for example, in ultrasound scans and manual therapy such as massages - the patient's consent takes precedence, said Mr Jonathan Lim, 43, a physiotherapist at Physio & Therapy Lodge Group.

Mr David Aw, who owns Emmanuel Physiotherapy, said patients are usually provided with a gown if they are required to undress, which can be rolled up or down if necessary.

Physiotherapy regulars ST spoke to said while they have not encountered any incident in which they felt that their modesty was being compromised, they would not hesitate to speak up if faced with such a situation.

According to the Health Ministry website, physiotherapists are governed by the Allied Health Professions Act.

Practitioners must be registered with the Allied Health Professions Council to practise here.