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COVID-19: Questions and Answers about RMT practice

The following is a consolidation of questions that CMTBC has recently received from RMTs, and CMTBC’s responses. Our continuing goal is to keep registrants and the public as well informed as possible as the situation with COVID-19 continues to unfold.

Question: Do RMTs provide an “essential service”? Why, for example, are physical therapists (PTs) and chiropractors on the BC essential services list, but not RMTs?

Answer: CMTBC appreciates that a degree of confusion has followed some of the government’s public announcements, including the two “essential services” lists released by the Ministry of Public Safety & Solicitor General (MPSSG).

While CMTBC always considered that the lists released by MPSSG included all regulated health professions, including massage therapy, any remaining ambiguity was put to rest by Dr. Bonnie Henry’s order of April 16, 2020 regarding personal services establishments (PDF). That order clearly stated that personal services “do not include health services provided by a registrant of a college of a health profession designated under the Health Professions Act.”

Question: If RMTs are an essential service, why can’t they be at work right now?

Answer: Because designation as an essential service does not cancel the requirement for physical distancing, except in urgent or emergency circumstances, such as the requirement to deliver essential primary health care.

For RMTs, the key guidance is still provided by Dr. Henry’s letter of March 23, 2020 (PDF), in which she communicates the expectation that health professionals who deliver services “involving direct physical contact with patients” reduce those services to “minimal levels … until further notice”. That expectation is still in effect.

Question: But didn’t Dr. Henry say that some people could start to go back to work in mid-May?

Answer: She did. However, the initial priorities of the Ministry of Health include, for example, resuming cancelled surgeries, and providing acute primary care. In a Global TV online town hall held on the evening of April 20, Dr. Henry said professions such as massage therapy, chiropractic, and dentistry would be part of the “next phase” of the Provincial Health Office’s planning, and emphasized that “we’re not at the point yet where we can let down our guard.”

Also, both on April 20 and at her April 21 briefing, Dr. Henry made it clear that practice of such professions would not look the same, and that part of the PHO’s work will involve providing appropriate profession-specific guidance for a restricted, controlled return to practice. While we have no specific timeline for this to happen, it is unlikely to happen before the end of May, and perhaps not even before the end of June. As we learn more, we will provide updates. Please continue to check CMTBC’s COVID-19 Information for Registrants page regularly.

Question: What is CMTBC doing right now?

Answer: CMTBC is in regular and frequent contact with other health regulators. Together with the other regulators, with the Ministry of Health and with the Provincial Health Office, CMTBC is implementing a coordinated COVID-19 response.

We have begun work on a “return to practice” protocol in conjunction with our fellow health regulators and the Provincial Health Office. We are also in contact with our counterpart massage therapy regulators in other regulated Canadian provinces to learn what we can (and share what we know) about responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to this and other COVID-19 related work, CMTBC’s regular work continues in investigations, inquiry and discipline; development of a new quality assurance program; regular board and committee meetings; development of new practice standards; entry-to-practice processes including completion of the March 2020 exam administration; and early planning for 2021 (challenging, but necessary).

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