Sask. massage therapists preparing to open, but PPE challenging to find: association

Lori Green said businesses are either only selling to Phase 1 personnel or have increased their prices.

Executive director says businesses are either only selling to Phase 1 personnel or have increased their prices

Massage therapists will be able to reopen during Phase 2 of Saskatchewan's reopening plan. (Robert Short/CBC)

Saskatchewan massage therapists are asking to be recognized as a medical service so they can more easily access personal protective equipment (PPE).

Saskatchewan's reopening plan began on Monday. Residents can go for an eye appointment, see the dentist, or visit a chiropractor. However, registered massage therapists are considered a personal service and were left out of the first phase of the plan.

Lori Green is the executive director of the Massage Therapist Association of Saskatchewan (MTAS). She said she's advocated for the industry to be regulated for 17 years, but that it has not happened.

Green said the association is now sending out information to get everyone prepared to reopen in Phase 2. 

"It's a new world that we're walking into and I really do believe that it will be a new world forever," Green said. 

Camille Lapierre said massage therapists will be required to wear a surgical mask, face shield and apron when dealing with clients. A doctor demonstrates how to put on the equipment in Montreal on April 3, 2020. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Green said she thinks people will be more cautious about personal protection and hygiene in the future. However, she is hearing from her members that finding PPE has become a challenge.

"There are some businesses that we could get supplies from before are just serving Phase 1 — which we all agree is the most important," Green said. "So they won't deal with massage therapists or anybody in phase two."

Green said some businesses in China need a minimum order of 10,000 to ship, but the MTAS isn't used to being a warehouse or supplier. Green said some suppliers have also tripled their prices for PPE during the pandemic. 

"It's a supply and demand system right now and so prices are going up. Supplies are greatly in demand and where we're not legislated … put us low on the who gets what," she said. 

Lori Green says the association has been lobbying for 17 years to be a regulatory body. (CBC)

Green said some massage therapists are cautiously optimistic about opening. 

"A number of our therapists at this point I don't think are prepared to open until they are certain that they can have an ongoing supply of the PPE," she said. "I mean nobody wants to open and then be shut down again."

Camille Lapierre has been a registered massage therapist (RMT) for almost 23 years. She works out of her home in Saskatoon and already has clients booked for when she can open.

"I was surprised that we were in Phase 2 but also thankful," Lapierre said. "Slowly bringing things back and seeing how other regulated professions are doing it is a good lead — It also gives us more time to prepare."

People are really anxious to get back to their RMTs to get the care that they need.- Camille Lapierre

Lapierre said RMTs have always followed guidelines about sanitizing sheets, washing hands, sanitizing surfaces and more between patients. She said now they are going to wear surgical masks, face shields, aprons and give themselves extra time between clients. 

"So it's going to be a little bit more extensive but we're wanting to protect the public. We're wanting to protect ourselves as well and just make sure that people are getting the best care possible," she said. 

Lapierre said people began booking as soon as the Saskatchewan reopening plan was announced. 

"On the day of the announcement, when they said it was May 19, my phone started buzzing like crazy," Lapierre said. "People are really anxious to get back to their RMTs to get the care that they need."

Lapierre said RMTs may be in demand for people who have chronic migraines and headaches, but that people who are spring cleaning or trying out a new exercise program and doing things they may not be used to may also need therapy. 

With files from Bonnie Allen


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