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VIEWS DIVIDED ON PHYSICAL THERAPY LAW REVISION

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March 8, 2002 – At a hearing Thursday, the Senate Health and Hospitals Committee heard both support for and opposition to a revamping of the territory's years-old physical therapy law as proposed by Sen. Douglas Canton Jr., the committee chair.
Physical therapists and health officials took a good look at the measure, which lays out who may and may not perform physical therapy, with differing views. Two things all parties agreed on was that the law needs to be made more specific, and it needs to protect the rights of the consumer.
Physical therapists spoke in favor of the bill. Angelica Schuster, president of the Board of Physical Therapy, said Canton's proposed revision is important, as it serves "to protect the rights of the consumer, who may not understand what physical therapy entails, and it defines the personnel qualified to perform physical therapy." Mary Wick, secretary of the board, called the bill "crucial in allowing the board to properly regulate the practice of physical therapy in the V.I."
Some hospital officials took issue with limiting physical therapy only to those licensed to practice it. Dr. Gary Jett, a St. Croix physician, told the committee, "If only physical therapists are able to provide physical therapy, this would further limit the ability for patients on St. Croix to receive proper health care."
Eunice Liburd-Roberts, a Health Department physical therapist, said the services provided by the physical therapist should be limited to those as directed in the new legislation.
Deputy Health Commissioner Lucien Moolenaar said his department shares the concerns of the therapists, but recommended "more condensed language" in the act.
Patrick J. Cook, director of Juan F. Luis Hospital rehabilitation services, cautioned the committee, "A direct-access practice act which restricts other specialties from functioning within their prescribed … profession could be seen as very biased toward physical therapists, in particular those who own private practices."
Canton said the committee hopes to address most of the concerns raised at the hearing, which he described as one step in the process of "drafting the best legislation possible to protect the health professionals and their consumers."
Committee members attending the meeting in addition to Canton were Sens. Lorraine Berry, Roosevelt David, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Vargrave Richards. Committee members David Jones and Almando "Rocky" Liburd were absent.

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