"Just before this outbreak started, I fractured my skull and suffered a traumatic brain injury. I have spent half of my recovery not being able to use the resources I need to recover. It's created a massive amount of stress and anxiety and I'm left in a place where there is nothing more I can do to help my recovery without services like physio. My only option is to put up with the pain."
This is a concerning message I received this week.
Another man I spoke with last week described the excruciating pain he has dealt with for the past two months. He's suffering from a pinched nerve in his spine, while still needing to function and work during the lockdown. It causes so much pain that he's only averaging three hours of sleep at night. If he's not able to see his physiotherapist and get the treatment needed, will it lead to long term nerve damage?
The physical nerve pain is terrible, but the uncertainty of nerve damage is worse.
The issue isn't that physiotherapists are too booked up, it's that they're not allowed to open. Medical professionals are allowed to see patients but, crazily, physiotherapists aren't included.
Under Jacinda Ardern's new Weapon of Mass Confusion, presented as a three-step plan to ease level 3 restrictions in Auckland, outdoor yoga's permitted, and shopping malls can open before physiotherapists can.
Physiotherapy is more vital to wellbeing than outdoor yoga. It's not hard to see how much more vital it is that people can have post-surgery rehabilitation, and that injuries can be treated quickly to stop degradation of tissue and for mobility. It's important for welfare and wellbeing.
But the Government's rules say retail therapy can occur before actual therapy.
It's not just the physiotherapists that are unable to provide healthcare to those who need it. I heard from someone who can't see their audiologist to get their broken hearing aids fixed. They said it's embarrassing and frustrating taking customer calls working from home and struggling to hear.
Podiatrists can't check feet as part of their patient's diabetic screening. Women who're pregnant and experiencing hip pain can't visit osteopaths. As one woman who reached out to me put it, tele-health doesn't give you much of a result when you're needing manual therapy.
Most people can accept that when Covid hit, we needed to lockdown. Our healthcare system couldn't have coped with widespread transmission of the virus. Locking down was the only tool we had in the toolkit.
But 18 months on from the first outbreak, and with no end in sight for this one, more people are questioning what the future holds for their ongoing health care needs.
The Government should've been planning for how to do testing, tracing and isolating better in preparation for a worse outbreak. It didn't. Instead, it took the world's longest nap. Now we're sitting in a long lockdown with unclear rules and no idea about which restrictions can be lifted and when.
The longer a lockdown continues the worse it is to many New Zealanders' health and wellbeing. It's not sustainable to keep pressing pause on rehabilitation and screenings.
We all get it. An uncontrolled outbreak of Covid would be a major problem for New Zealand, and right now there's not much spare time or resources to get it right. But many people are at breaking point.
We can't afford to get our priorities all wrong.
We need to allow as many activities as possible to occur, within an acceptable tolerance of risk that Covid will spread.
By putting politically popular superficial freedoms ahead of the acute needs of the truly vulnerable, the Government has failed in its advertised commitment to boost overall wellbeing.
It's becoming obvious to more and more people that kindness and compassion was simply a marketing technique.
We need to give certainty to the woman recovering from spinal surgery that she can have access to her six-month follow up. We need to allow the woman suffering from chronic pain to just go to her physiotherapist. We need to let people use the resources they need to recover from injuries.
The Government needs to do the right thing and clarify the rules to give more New Zealanders what they need for their wellbeing, not just picnics.
• Brooke van Velden is the Act Party deputy leader.