B.C. to require first-aid certification for RMTs

Mari-Len De Guzman
July 09, 2014
(UPDATE: Added clarifications from the CMTBC) Beginning November 1, 2014, the College of Massage Therapists of British Columbia (CMTBC) will start requiring registered massage therapists in B.C. to have first-aid/CPR certification, as a component of the “quality assurance” requirement.
The CMTBC recently issued an amendment to its bylaws naming additional recognized national providers of first aid/CPR programs from which RMTs can receive training.

A public review period pertaining to the proposed amendment is currently underway, and will end at 5:00 pm on July 12, 2014, according to a notice posted on the CMTBC website.

The proposed amendment to the CMTBC bylaw states: “Effective on and after November 1, 2014, an Active Registrant must have and maintain current certification in Standard First Aid/CPR-C from the Canadian Red Cross, Canadian Ski Patrol, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Lifesaving Society or St. John Ambulance.”

The CMTBC has proposed the first-aid requirement in line with the Agreement on Internal Trade, which aims to achieve consistency on regulatory requirements across regulated jurisdictions. The College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO) requires first aid and CPR certification for initial registration with the college. CMTBC's new requirement for first aid and CPR certification, however, is a requirement for registration renewal. CPR and first aid certification is one of the practice competencies listed under the inter-juridictional practice competencies for massage therapists.

With the proposed amendment, the requirements for RMTs to be first-aid/CPR-certified will now be a condition of registration, and no longer qualify as continuing professional education for RMTs.

The Registered Massage Therapists Association of B.C. (RMTABC) has sought legal opinion regarding the new requirement.

In his written opinion, posted on the RMTABC website , lawyer Geoff Plant, of Gall Legge Grant & Munroe LLP, stated that with the new requirement, “massage therapists in British Columbia, under the First Aid Requirement, are held out by the College as being trained and skilled and competent in First Aid and CPR as an aspect of ‘Quality Assurance’, and no longer merely optional continuing professional education.”

The RMTABC is concerned that with new first aid requirements, RMTs in B.C. will now “owe a duty of care to patients who experience a medical emergency while in their offices.”

According to Plant’s letter, "as we understand it, the College has made assurances that the scope of potential liability of massage therapists will not be expanded by the First Aid Requirement, and that the British Columbia Good Samaritan Act, RSBC 1986, c 172 ("Good Samaritan Act BC") would protect British Columbia massage therapists from any liability."

Plant, however, believes the college is mistaken in its assumption about the Good Samaritan Act.

In his opinion, Plant said, “… the most important reason why the Good Samaritan Act BC likely cannot assist a British Columbia massage therapist in the event of their intervention in a medical emergency is the fact that the Good Samaritan Act BC does not alter the common law position that an ordinary person is not under a legal obligation to intervene in a medical emergency. By contrast, medical practitioners are not permitted to refuse to treat or accept a patient in an emergency situation, if they have the skills required to do so.

In our view the First Aid Requirement creates an expectation on the part of the public, as represented by the College, that BC massage therapists will intervene in emergency medical situations that arise in their clinics, and are trained to do so. This not only increases the scope of the duty of care owed by massage therapists to their patients, but also changes the standard of care in exercising that duty.”

CMTBC registrar and CEO Susan Addario, however, said the college "has not given assurances" regarding expansion of potential liability of RMTs and simply posted information on its website for registrants including advice that "the [Good Samaritan] Act should be read together with their liability insurance in order to understand their liability coverage. The applicability of the Act and insurance coverage will depend on the facts in any given situation."

Addario added the college does not provide legal advice to registrants regarding their potential exposure to liability.

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