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‘Think twice’ before you book a massage, says B.C. clinic owner

Last Updated May 19, 2020 at 10:33 am PDT


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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Massage therapists will do their best to make you feel comfortable, but new guidelines to protect both them and their patients may feel clinical and cold compared to what you’re used to.

Dr. Bonnie Henry’s Provincial Health order that shuttered personal services such as massage and physiotherapy, hair styling and dentistry is lifted as of Tuesday, May, 19.

Chris Motiu, owner and manager of Davie Village Registered Massage Therapy, says you may want to wait before seeking care.

“We suggest that people really think twice before they book a massage. We want people to come back but we want to make sure they’re safe and they’re comfortable when they do,” he says.

While some clinics tell NEWS 1130 they will remain closed to protect therapists or because they have a shortage of PPE, Motiu says his clinic is ready, but still hopes patients will use discretion and masks as many of his clients are from across the street at St. Paul’s Hospital.

“I would say probably at least 50 per cent of our patients are first responders or people who work as nurses, as doctors, as other practitioners in the hospital,” says Motiu, adding they are stressed and overworked.

“Massage therapy does help with stress and anxiety, especially the uncertain things that we’re going through right now. Probably that’s one of the reasons that patients are really looking forward to coming back.”

Required vs recommended

The College of Massage Therapists of B.C. has provided interim guidelines to clinics and practitioners, which include the same six-step COVID-19 safety plan required by all workplaces reopening in the province.

It is required that patients be informed of changes and standards, and pre-screened for COVID-19 contacts and symptoms at time of booking. It’s recommended that a second screening take place upon arrival.

Motiu is only booking appointments online, where patients can see a long list of changes, warnings, and requests for them to follow new rules.

“This is a two-way street. So we’ve got to ensure that we protect our patients, but we also got to ensure that we protect ourselves as well,” he says.

Physical distancing is required at reception and entry points but is impossible in treatment rooms, so many practitioners will be wearing masks. However, doing so for either patient or therapist is not mandatory.

The “RMT must have cloth or paper/disposable (surgical) masks available for patient’s use if requested, and for RMT’s use if patient requests it. Cloth masks must be laundered after each use,” say the CMTBC guidelines, which also say hand washing, avoiding touching the face, and enhanced cleaning are all required.

RMTs will have to broach the topic of masks with patients and “should have gloves, protective goggles and other commercially available PPE items available if patient requests their use, or if RMT chooses to use PPE,” the guidelines say, adding “paper or disposable masks should be available for patient use rather than laundered cloth masks, to instill trust.”

RMTs must wash hands regularly and patients must wash their hands upon arrival for at least 20 seconds. “If soap and water are not available, provide sanitation station with alcohol-based hand rubs for patient’s use on arrival and prior to departure,” according to the CMTBC regulations.

The Registered Massage Therapists Association of B.C. has stricter guidelines that suggest patients use masks during ‘during intake, assessment, and supine/sideling treatment. The receptionist should be protected by a screening device such as a Plexiglas barrier at the reception.

At the Davie Village Registered Massage Therapy clinic, Motiu has staggered the start times of his therapists and is leaving 30 minutes between each patient for cleaning and to ensure patients don’t have to go through the extra stress of physically distancing themselves from one another.

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“And that’s not just the massage table; that’s chairs, doorknobs, any surface that the patient might have touched while at the clinic, gets sanitized,” says Motiu.

Sheets at his clinic, as always, are being cleaned by a third-party professional, but instead of storing them in treatment rooms they are now in sealed bins outside of massage areas.

Beds are wiped thoroughly with disinfectant between patients but electric heated blankets and flannel face covers have been set aside and disposable paper products have taken their place.

Despite the changes, it seems people are eager to ease pain, anxiety, and work out the knots they can’t reach themselves. Clinics like the Davie Village one are fast filling up, already booking two weeks to a month ahead.

Motiu expects he is busy because of the need from health care workers nearby, but also because he provides a safe space for LGBT patients in the West End.