COVID-19 Level 2 - Playing it Safe
As you will be aware, the changes with level 2 happening this week will allow for more opening up of businesses and services, this includes Massage Therapy. So what does this look like for Massage Therapy and for Equilibrium Massage Therapy?
Allied Health Aotearoa New Zealand (AHANZ) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) have advised that for allied health this means that practitioners will be able to see patients in person if the following processes are in place:
Screening for COVID-19 symptoms prior to in-person appointments
Physical distancing measures
Infection prevention control measures including PPE where required
Exercise caution in working with vulnerable/high-risk clients, which means people with chronic health conditions and the elderly.
In addition, for work involving close personal contact, the government requires businesses to minimise contact to the extent possible. This is obviously a challenge for Massage Therapy because of the close physical contact in an enclosed clinic space for anywhere from 30 - 120 minutes.
My professional association, Massage New Zealand (MNZ) has provided us with a Health & Hygiene Brief with some recommended minimum requirements for things like client screening, changes to the clinic environment, and hygiene and sanitisation protocols for safe practice. MNZ has also made it very clear to members that we must only be working with healthy people at this stage, meaning that we are unable to see any clients "with any symptoms, previous/current health conditions or high risk people (over 70)".
I have also been doing my own research around safe practice for massage therapists in this current environment, reading guidelines put out by other similar health professions in New Zealand, hearing what international experts in my field have to say, having Zoom meetings with massage therapists from around New Zealand and discussing important concerns. The overarching theme within my profession has always been "do no harm", and this is as critical as ever. There are a fair few things that need to be put in place before re-opening my clinic, to make sure I can practice as safely as possible and minimise risk, both for my clients, myself and my family. Taking into consideration the above, what health experts Dr Michael Baker and Dr Siouxie Wiles have recently said about needing more time to see the effects of moving to level 2 and the delayed lag effect of being in level 3, and the "Play it Safe" theme of level 2, I have made the decision to delay re-opening for a few weeks. This will give me time to get my clinic set up in a way that I can work safely, develop and implement the procedures I will need to use, clearly communicate changes I need clients to know about. and get a clear picture of how the change to level 2 is playing out in terms of COVID-19 transmission in our community. You will see that some therapists are re-opening this week, while some like me, are delaying for a week or more. This is a personal decision we are each having to make for our businesses. As was the case when we went into level 2, client safety is of utmost importance to me. I take my work seriously and want to do this properly to reduce any possible risk.
Later next week I will be posting more information about how things will work when I do re-open, including arrival procedure, routine client screening requirements prior to appointment, treatment modifications and protocol, and safety/cleaning protocols, so clients are fully informed of the changes in advance. I am currently looking at potentially reducing treatment times and having fewer appointments each day to ensure each client's safety.
I would like to thank my clients for their patience and support. I know that many are very keen to be getting some massage therapy treatment as soon as possible. I am looking forward to getting back to work and treating my clients.
In order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of my existing clients, when I do reopen I will not be taking on new clients until our COVID-19 alert level has downgraded further. If you have purchased a voucher during lockdown, please contact me to discuss so we can ensure that you do get the benefit of using it, even if not immediately. If you have any concerns or inquiries, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Kia kaha. I feel blessed to have such wonderful clients. Odette