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Physiotherapy Department

What We Do

Physiotherapists work within an Allied Health Services Directorate at Cairns Hospital. This team works closely with medical officers, nursing , other allied health , support and administration staff to optimise patient recovery and well-being.

Physiotherapists are highly qualified health professionals who work in partnership with their patients to help people get better and stay well.

Using advanced techniques and evidence-based care, physiotherapists assess, diagnose, treat and prevent a wide range of health conditions and movement disorders. Physiotherapy helps repair damage, reduce stiffness and pain, increase mobility and improve quality of life.

Physiotherapy extends from health promotion to injury prevention, acute care, rehabilitation, maintenance of functional mobility, chronic disease management, patient and carer education and occupational health.

Physiotherapists at Cairns Hospital (CH) provide care for both inpatients and outpatients across the areas of: 


Specialises in the treatment of patients who are admitted to hospital due to a traumatic accident / incident or those undergoing planned surgery (elective). Providing a holistic approach to regain function, enhance mobility and provide exercises to strengthen and increase range of motion to maximise recovery.

Medical Assessment Unit

This is an inpatient short stay unit with access to a range of Allied Health staff, aiming to provide timely assessment for people with medical conditions.  After assessing our patients, we work to link people with community services if needed, or refer on to other areas of the hospital.

Medical Wards

Physiotherapists work with respiratory conditions, and assist a wide variety of people to improve their mobility and function post-illness.

Intensive Care (ICU) and High Dependency (HDU)

Physiotherapists provide respiratory care for critically ill ventilated and non-ventilated patients and patients requiring high dependency monitoring. Physiotherapists maintain and increase strength and joint movement through passive and active exercises; assist with regaining mobility; treat musculoskeletal conditions and commence rehabilitation once patients are well enough to participate in therapy.

Physiotherapy Department CH

Coronary Care

Physiotherapists treat a variety of respiratory and other illnesses, and assist in commencing Phase 1 Cardiac Rehabilitation in hospital.

Surgical Wards

Physiotherapists provide care for patients undergoing a variety of surgical procedures:

  • Abdominal surgery
  • Vascular surgery
  • Amputations
  • Head and neck surgery
  • Minor thoracic and cardiac procedures
  • Burns.

Physiotherapists work with patients both pre- and post-operatively to maintain function and mobility and manage respiratory conditions.

Paediatrics and Adolescent Care

Inpatient and outpatient management and treatment of childhood respiratory diseases (such as Cystic Fibrosis and Bronchiectasis); neurological and orthopaedic conditions.

Health management of Cerebral Palsy including hip surveillance, contracture management and post health intervention therapy.

Specialist outpatient assessment and treatment of Congenital Talipes Equinovrus (Clubfoot) and other foot anomalies.

Physiotherapy Department CH

Women’s, Men's and Pelvic Health

Physiotherapists assist both men and women with a variety of conditions that may affect their bladder, bowel or pelvic health.

Women’s, Men’s & Pelvic Health Physiotherapists can offer support to inpatients and outpatients with:

  • Pregnancy related musculoskeletal issues Postnatal maternity care
  • Urinary and Faecal incontinence
  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • Pelvic pain
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Prostate cancer.

Musculoskeletal and Orthopaedic Outpatients

Physiotherapists provide individual assessment, treatment and management of a variety of client groups:

  • Musculoskeletal conditions including soft tissue injuries
  • Vestibular and Balance problems
  • Post orthopaedic surgical conditions
  • Outpatient ante-natal management
  • Low back pain management.

Hand Clinic

Physiotherapists provide assessment, treatment and rehabilitation for patients following trauma/surgery to the hand and upper limb, working closely with occupational therapists in the clinic.

Neurological Rehabilitation

Physiotherapists work within a multidisciplinary team and under direction of a rehabilitation physician and geriatrician to provide rehabilitation to patients with conditions such as:

  • Acute and post-acute stroke
  • Head Injury
  • Spinal Injury
  • Mobility and balance disorders
  • Other neurological conditions
  • Aged and deconditioned patients.

Amputee Rehabilitation

  • Amputees are provided with physiotherapy from pre-surgery, throughout their inpatient stay and as an outpatient to achieve functional independence and mobility.
  • An advanced physiotherapist and allied health assistant work closely with visiting prosthetic services to ensure patients receive high quality care.

Heart Failure

A physiotherapist works specifically with heart failure patients to assist to increase exercise and activity, and make healthy lifestyle choices.  
Heart failure patients are encouraged to attend the Cardiac Conditioning Program which is 12 weeks of supervised exercise and heart failure specific education.  
The heart failure physiotherapist also reviews patients from all over the CHHHS via telehealth, clinics, home visits and telephone reviews.  The heart failure physiotherapist is part of the multi-professional Cairns and State-wide Heart Failure Service.

Physiotherapy Department CH

Older Persons Evaluation, Rehabilitation and Assessment (OPERA)

Physiotherapy works as part of this multi-professional team to assist patients to optimise function.

Neurosurgical & Orthopaedic Physiotherapy Screening Clinic (N/OPSC)

Physiotherapists work with the Neurosurgical & Orthopaedic Departments to identify patients on Specialist Out Patient Waiting Lists awaiting neurosurgical & orthopaedic / surgical opinion, who may benefit from non-surgical management of their neurosurgical or orthopaedic (musculoskeletal) condition. A Physiotherapist assesses patients in a first contact role and devises a management plan to help to reduce the waiting time for patients who do not require surgery.

Emergency Department

Physiotherapists work to improve patient flow and provide high quality care to patients of the Emergency Department.  There are two Physiotherapy roles within the Cairns Hospital ED.  

The Emergency Physiotherapy Practitioner (EPP) operates in a primary contact Physiotherapy role, which involves advanced assessment, clinical reasoning, diagnosis and treatment planning for patients with musculoskeletal conditions including fractures and joint dislocations.  If triaged as suitable, patients are drawn directly to physiotherapy from the ED waiting room and managed independently of medical officers, including discharge management. Clinical support is provided by senior medical staff as required.

The Emergency Department Physiotherapist (EDP) operates in a secondary contact Physiotherapy role as part of the multi-professional team, providing Physiotherapy assessment and intervention for patients presenting to ED on referral from a medical officer, EPP or Nurse Practitioner.  Services provided include the management of musculoskeletal conditions, vestibular conditions, cardiorespiratory conditions and mobility and balance problems, including discharge planning.

Cancer Care Services

Physiotherapists have many roles in assisting people to manage cancer or the effects of cancer treatments from surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Cancer care Physiotherapists can offer support to inpatients and outpatients:

  • Managing the physical changes after cancer or cancer treatment
  • Musculoskeletal therapy – joint movement, posture, strength and flexibility
  • Mobility and walking aids advice
  • Cancer related fatigue
  • Lymphoedema
  • Respiratory care
  • Carer advice education and safe manual handling.

Projects and Research

Cairns Hospital Physiotherapy Department is actively leading or participating in multiple research and service improvement projects across inpatient and outpatient services.

Physiotherapy Department CBH


The  Physiotherapy Department has strong links with external agencies to ensure a smooth care pathway from inpatient to community management through referrals when necessary and education for patients and/or carers via programs such as:

  • Adult Community Health Service
  • Family and Child Health Services
  • Child Development Service
  • Transition Care Program
  • Cardiac Rehabilitation
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation (CAPERS)
  • Falls Prevention Programmes
  • Hydrotherapy.
The Physiotherapy department  is also linked to the physiotherapists who work in regional hospitals  and services at Innisfail, Tully, Babinda, Atherton, Mareeba, Cooktown, Mossman, Weipa and Thursday Island.  Reliever physiotherapy positions also provide planned backfill for Physiotherapy positions across the health service.
Last updated: 14 January 2019