New Brunswick gets ready for regulation

Jessica Beaulieu
May 26, 2014
By
May 26, 2014 –Five months after the passage of the New Brunswick Massage Therapy Act, the province is now in full swing to establish the new college of massage therapy, and industry leaders are weighing in on what this would mean to massage therapy practitioners in the province.
The passing of Bill 25 meant that New Brunswick would join Ontario, Newfoundland and British Columbia as a massage therapy regulated province. It also meant that, as in the other regulated provinces, a college of massage therapy would be formed in order to protect the public and govern regulated members of the profession.

This legislation came after a lengthy and tiresome process, which had begun in 1990, when the New Brunswick Massotherapy Association (NBMA) first decided to write the Massotherapy Act.

The Association of New Brunswick Massage Therapists (ANBMT) was then officially incorporated into the Act in 1994, and in 2004 the two associations formed the joint legislative committee (JLC), but progress was halted because the third and final provincial association refused to get on board.

John MacKenny, president of the NBMA described the process as a, “slow go.”

“What had to happen was, the two of us really needed to work together and we had to go in and accommodate the third, because the government wanted everybody to be on the same page. So we had to change and ratify things in order to make the third association accept it,” he explained.

According to Pierre Wust, president of the ANBMT, the Act outlines the participation of all three associations and acknowledges that any current member in good standing of an association would become grandfathered into the new college.

He also explained that the passing of the Act marked the end of the involvement of all three associations in acting as the regulatory college.

The situation in New Brunswick is still fresh and nothing has been set in stone as of yet, but speculation is that New Brunswick will operate along the same lines as the other regulated provinces. Requiring an entry exam to the college, membership fees and a minimum amount of hours needed to reach the provincial standard.

Although it had been many years in the making, regulation in New Brunswick still came as a surprise to some.

“New Brunswick was somewhat of a surprise because they’ve been trying for as many years as I know, but I guess the timing was finally right for it to go through,” said Florent Villeneuve, director of schools for the International Complementary Therapy (ICT) Schools, an institution specializing in massage therapy education with locations across Canada, including in Moncton, N.B. “Alberta was always supposed to be the next one, because they’re so politically charged in that province.”

According to Kathy Watson, government relations advisor for the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada (NHPC), word on whether or not Alberta will go ahead with regulation should be out some time this year, as the government has joined forces with the University of Alberta in order to survey practitioners in the province to determine, once and for all, whether they wish to move forward with regulation.

With the survey on its way, the NHPC is using its website and available resources to educate practitioners in the province on the possible benefits and drawbacks that can come with regulation.

“I think it’s probably both positive and negative and it’s important for massage therapists to understand that when a province takes regulation of a health profession they do that with the idea of protecting the public,” Watson said. “So their focus isn’t to provide better benefits to massage therapists, their focus is to protect the public from being harmed.”

Regulation means that only those within the college are able to refer to themselves as massage therapists, and the work that they do as massage therapy. This is positive because it lends more credibility to the profession. The public, as well as other health practitioners, can feel safe and comfortable knowing that the services being rendered are being administered by a regulated practitioner.

Medical health professionals can confidently recommend massage therapy services as treatments to patients looking for a more holistic style of healing, much the way they do now with chiropractic care.

“It would clear some obstacles for practitioners and massage therapists to work in hospitals and medical environments. We know from surveys and studies that there are some really profound reasons to believe that massage therapy can speed up hospital stays, help improve recovery times from traumas and surgeries and can really help people to become mobile much more quickly when they’ve been in hospital for surgery,” Watson said.

However, Watson points out that there are many who may fall just outside of college requirements, or who may not be able to go back to school to take the entry exam, and their practice will now be set at a disadvantage.

“Some practitioners are going to choose not to be part of the college, and that’s just a matter of economics. Some will retire, some will try to practice outside of the college boundaries, and very likely, the people who are going to find the most trouble trying to go back to school and learn how to qualify for college entry are most likely to be the ones that are functioning and working in outlying communities,” Watson said.

Her fear, and that of the NHPC, is that those in outlying communities would have to close up shop in order to go back to school and receive the education required to pass an entrance exam. This leaves the practitioner at a monetary loss and their dedicated clients without a place to receive the services they need and desire.

But Candace Gilmore, academic director for the Atlantic College of Therapeutic Massage in Fredericton, says that the past, present and future students at her school have nothing to worry about in regards to passing the entry exam.

“This shouldn’t affect my school because ACTM already meets the national competency standards,” she said. “Right now our students can go to Ontario and write exams there. So as far as them being prepared, they’re well prepared.”

Villeneuve echoes that statement in regards to ICT Schools. “It won’t affect us because our curriculum is established in Ontario, so we meet the requirements for the CMTO (College of Massage Therapists of Ontario).”

Besides educational requirements, regulation also comes with additional monetary demands. Membership fees for the colleges in other provinces have typically not covered mandatory practice fees and expenses.

“They’re going to have to pay a membership to the college, and they’re still going to have to provide insurance coverage for themselves; liability and malpractice insurance,” Watson explained.

Regulation, however, could lead to increased use of massage therapy as New Brunswick residents seeking massage therapy treatment will now be able to claim this medical expense as a non-refundable tax credit, as they can in Ontario, Newfoundland and British Columbia. Additionally, those whose health insurance covers them for massage therapy treatments will have their fees reimbursed by their respective insurance provider.

There is also a long-standing rumour that if five provinces become regulated the CRA will drop the requirement for HST charges on massage therapy treatments. New Brunswick is the fourth Canadian province to regulate massage therapy as a health profession, following Ontario, British Columbia and Newfoundland.

Regardless, having more provinces under regulation is beneficial for practitioners as it allows them to transfer their practice from province to province as long as they belong to a regulated college.

“We want our students to have the best possible choices across the country. So the more provinces to have the better it is,” said Villeneuve.

The college is itself still very much in its early stages, and it will take some time before specific questions in regards to regulation in New Brunswick can be answered.

“The College of Massage Therapists is in its infancy right now, there’s a lot going on,” MacKenney said. “We’re putting things together right now for new students and people entering the province, to go in and be able to do college exams. That’s probably one of the biggest highlights that we’re working with the college on right now.”

According to MacKenney there are only four of the required six committee members in place now. The New Brunswick Ministry of Health has yet to put forward the final two people to be a part of the founding committee.

“Realistically, it’s going to be another 12 to 18 months before it’s fully functioning like one of the other colleges in one of the other three provinces,” he said.

The fate of the three provincial associations is also up in the air following regulation.  MacKenney says he’d like to see one association for the entire province, but not everyone shares this sentiment.

“The future of the massage therapy associations in New Brunswick is uncertain as there is no requirement to remain member in any of them. The ANBMT has currently over 400 active members. And while it will be actively trying to maintain their membership, the ANBMT is presently not interested in a merger with the other associations,” Wust said.

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