Dear Members

In a month that none of us could have ever predicted, where the information being filtered through is forever-changing about Covid-19, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services’ backflip on myotherapy and remedial massage was a prime example of the left and right hand pulling in opposite directions.

I can only begin to understand how distressing this has been for you, your patients and you families.

With my CEO hat off, and practitioner and business owner hat on, I feel deeply for the emotional turmoil you must all be experiencing right now. I know that many of you are closing your businesses without knowing when you may be able to re-open. Some of you are closing your businesses for personal reasons. Others have been forced to close your business as a result of State or Territory Health Departments’ directive. And to add to all that, we now find out that the Victorian Department of Health’s advice to close myotherapy practices was possibly a knee-jerk reaction, which they revoked by updating their covid-19 frequently asked questions page overnight.

What Happened?

Responding to member confusion as to which healthcare professions were permitted to continue in-person practice, on Tuesday, 30 March, MA, together with ANTA, ATMS and MMA issued a joint letter to all health ministers and departments. We urged the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to adopt one single, clear definition of health professions permitted to operate on an in-person basis under the current Covid-19 restrictions.

Late in the afternoon of 31 March 2020, the Victorian Public Health Team sent us an email stating “Myotherapy and Massage Therapy Services are classified as nonessential for the purpose of the State of Emergency for coronavirus.” We are providing you with this email now.

Based on advice from our indemnity insurers, we are required to share all government advice with our members and to comply with that advice. As such, on 31/3/20, we advised all of our members in Victoria that the Victorian government required you to cease practicing.

We had concerns with the Victorian government’s response. The wording was confusing, contained no links to formal government advice, demonstrated a poor understanding of myotherapy and finally, it contrasted Commonwealth government advice. Commonwealth government advice states clearly that healthcare professions should continue practicing to help ease the load on hospitals.

I spent many hours trying to contact the Victorian Department of Health and the Minister’s office. Mostly, the phones just rang out or gave me a message to say that the phone lines were too congested and they could not take calls. Eventually, after speaking to the Minister’s office, at 5:30 yesterday, I received a phone call from a very helpful person from the Victorian Department of Health. I was advised that our concerns were escalated within the department, but we were asked not to distribute the email at this time.

After our conversations, the Victorian government promised to clarify the situation. They issued the following FAQ on its website, dated 2 April 2020.

Which beauty and personal care businesses are currently prohibited?

All care services where there is close contact for a prolonged period between the client and the therapist, including:

  • Beauty therapy, spray-tanning, waxing and nail salons
  • Tattoo and piercing parlours
  • Spas and massage parlours providing relaxation massages as distinct from therapeutic or remedial massage.

Allied health services, such as physiotherapy and podiatry can continue to operate as normal.

I have been in frequent communication with the Department today (3rd March). I asked them to urgently issue a clarifying statement, which they have told me is pending.

At 9:32pm Friday 3rd April, the Department responded to me, from the COVID-19 Directions Team, Novel Coronavirus Public Health Emergency. As you can see, the reply clearly authorises myotherapy practices to continue to operate.

So why did MA advise you of Departments’ decision on the March 31, knowing that we were going back in to fight for you?

Based on advice from our indemnity insurers, we are required to share all government advice with our members and to comply with that advice. As such, on 31/3/20, we advised all of our members in Victoria that the Victorian government required you to cease practicing.

Under the clear instructions of our insurer, if a member continues to practice following an official government notification to cease their practice, they void the security of indemnity insurance. Put simply, you would not have been covered in the incident that a claim arose during that period. Therefore, our obligation and responsibility to you is to provide notification immediately.

So we ask that you don’t shoot the messenger!

Had MA held off on notifying Victorian members about this directive, those continuing face-to-face practice would have been be at risk of being issued hefty fines from police. Not a position we care for any of you to be in.

What Next?

We spoke to our insurer yesterday (3 April), and provided them with a copy the two pieces of advice from the Department, current at 4pm yesterday. Our insurer has advised that myotherapists are insured for in-person consultations in Victoria.

Will Government Advice Change Again?

That is the big question and the simple answer is that nobody knows right now. The situation continues to evolve.

We urge all members to monitor government websites for the latest updates on the Coronavirus pandemic. Some States and Territories are implementing their own rules in some areas. In other areas, they are following Commonwealth government guidance. We appreciate that this makes it hard to know what is expected of you, and when. MA will continue to closely monitor any announcements and inform our members as soon as we have been able to verify the information.

We all have a responsibility to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and help flatten the curve. In line with current healthcare advice, MA respectfully asks all our members to carefully evaluate the urgency of each patient’s appointment. Where appropriate, you could consider encouraging those patients scheduled for non-urgent appointments to postpone until further advice from government. There is the other option of offering telepractice consultations so that you can continue to provide
guidance and care remotely. Telepractice and/or postponing appointments is a decision that only you can take together with your patients.

How you practice is always at your own discretion, subject to government requirements. Noting government directions to reduce unnecessary in-person interactions, we ask you to consider making some or all of these changes to your practice.

To help our members who wish to move to telepractice, we recently ran a telehealthwebinar, which can be accessed here. We are also developing a telepractice policy, which we will distribute as soon as it is ready.

I understand that many decisions you are now faced with will impact a number of you financially, emotionally and some physically. I don’t have the words to express how sorry I am.

I hope that we can provide you with some solace knowing that MA will continue to work tirelessly to advocate for our profession, maintain regular communication with you and provide resources to our best capacity to support you through this very difficult time.

Thank you again for your patience during this difficult time. We remind you that we have a small staff, who are doing everything they can to respond to your queries as soon as possible. Please be patient and respectful with them as they continue to work hard to help you.

Fighting for our members and profession

Anna Yerondais
Chief Executive Officer

Issued: Saturday 4th April, 2020