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Statement from MTI Board: Guidance and Questions to Consider on Returning to Work

This letter is written by MTI Chair Earle Abrahamson

Dear members,

We hope this letter finds you well and safe.

As promised in my previous communication, the board intends to provide updates to members on issues impacting practice, training, learning and continuing professional development.

The purpose of this communication is to build upon the guidance available, make it accessible, but moreover trigger questions around issues impacting our practice, mental health and safety. I do not intend to make this a lengthy document but rather one that provides some insight into different aspects of our planned work. Each component of the guidance cited below will be expanded in future updates.

Since our last message, I hosted a GCMT meeting to examine what the new normality may look like when we receive the clearance to return to work. It is unclear when that may be but planning ahead to consider options and actions is necessary not only for peace of mind, but more so for driving change forward positively.

In the meeting we discussed and debated how rules around social distancing and PPE would impact return to work. What we know is less than what we don’t know. What is evident is that we are potentially a long way off the relaxation of the social distancing rule which makes our sector work difficult if not impossible to continue face to face. In searching for answers, we found ourselves asking more questions, often rhetorical in nature. We also find ourselves looking at international guidance and reviews on how massage therapy organisations are working to regulate a return to work practice whether this be staged or immediate. I have established a GCMT working group to review and collate evidence around guidance on safe practice during the crisis. We intend to decant the information in accessible bite size chunks so that members can consider the implications for practice and teaching. We further aim to support the written advice with a series of Facebook livestreams that serve to explain the content and provide the opportunity to ask questions.

At our meeting, we reviewed the C19 policy that sets out which businesses and industries are part of a phased return to work. As you will see in appendix 2 and 3, our industry is clustered under massage parlours. It is the view of the GCMT that this classification is based on our voluntary registration unlikely our allied professionals who sit in a regulated framework. To this end, I have drafted a letter to my MP to enlist his help in advocating for structured guidance for our sector. The CNHC circulated a letter on 30 April to registrants explaining its position and advocacy at a Governmental level.

I would like to share some of the questions and considerations raised at the meeting. They are not intended as answers or permission to return to work, but rather as a catalyst to enable our community to reflect on what returning to work may look like.

As the country explores reopening businesses, we are fully in the midst of this uncertainty. Our members are articulating a wide range of views—from wanting us to take a firm stand that massage therapists and bodyworkers should go back to work before other businesses because a one-on-one setting is safer than other businesses, to believing they should go back to work after other businesses because their work is incompatible with social distancing measures and, therefore, less safe.

The reality is that whenever stay-at-home restrictions are lifted—earlier or later—many of us are still going to be faced with the question, “Should I go back to work?”

That is not a question the Board can easily or readily answer for you but rather communicate reasonable guidance and adjustments.

With the possibility of asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19, every choice we make in the foreseeable future has a real level of risk attached. Even with stringent sanitation protocols and enhanced client screening, there still exists a risk that practitioners will get sick, or your client, or a family member, or more people down the line in our larger community will suffer.

It is highly likely that at least tentative steps to begin getting people back to work will occur before epidemiologists fully concur it is smart to take that step.

To this end we’ve put together a provisional set of guidelines and questions to ask ourselves before returning to work. This is an active document that we will change and refine as we get updated guidance from the government and other advisory bodies.

Once again, we hope you continue to stay connected, focussed, strong and in touch as we prepare for the next stages.

Best wishes,

Earle

On behalf of the MTI board.

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