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Essential services during COVID-19 pandemic

On March 26, 2020, BC’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced he is issuing a series of ministerial orders under the Emergency Program Act

These orders cover a wide variety of areas, including consumer protections, goods and services distribution (supply chain), travel, municipal enforcement, and coordination with local governments.

The Minister’s announcement included a “list of essential services in B.C. during COVID-19 pandemic”. That list includes health services deemed essential; one of the paragraphs on that list reads as follows:

“other health services and caregivers (e.g., physicians, dentists, psychiatrists, psychologists, mid-level practitioners, nurses and assistants, infection-control and quality-assurance personnel, pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists and assistants, social workers, mental-health and substance-use workers, including peer support workers, speech pathologists, diagnostic and therapeutic technicians and technologists, counsellors, chiropractors, naturopaths, dentists, crisis centres, outreach workers, overdose and harm-reduction services, meal programs; …”

Some RMTs have contacted CMTBC to ask why massage therapy is not on the essential services list. CMTBC does not know the answer, and has requested clarification from the Ministry of Health and from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. We will communicate what we learn.

However, it appears that some RMTs may also be interpreting being on the essential services list as meaning that members of those professions are now able to provide services without any restrictions or limitations. While the College is requesting greater clarity, CMTBC sees no reason to interpret the above list as overriding or superseding the Provincial Health Officer’s letter of expectation to health professionals dated March 23, 2020 (PDF). The core message of Dr. Henry’s letter is that health services delivered by regulated health professionals in community settings, meaning outside the primary- or secondary-care public system, and which cannot be delivered while maintaining physical distancing, can only be delivered if they constitute emergency or essential care, as defined by Dr. Henry.

CMTBC interpreted Dr. Henry’s requirements specifically in the RMT context and provided guidance for RMTs who seek “allowable exceptions”. Please see the College’s news story of March 24 to review the guidance provided to RMTs.

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