Letters to the Editor – from Melanie Faulkner

Government needs to re-evaluate shutdown of massage therapy

To the Editor:

I, Melanie Faulkner, am the owner/operator and registered massage therapist at Run Wild Wellness. I started my business in 2017, contracting space around Slave Lake. Mid-pandemic I took on the risk of acquiring our commercial lease – where I previously rented a room, – hired an employee, and now contract space to three additional small, local, wellness entrepreneurs.

Individually, yet together, we operate under the location Run Wild Collaborative Self Care and Wellness Studio; (Run Wild Wellness, Skintasmic Lash & Beauty, Seven Suns Massage Therapy, and Northern Beauty). Our services consist of registered massage therapy, certified lash extensions, facials, body sugaring hair removal, Student Massage therapy, reiki, fire cupping, access bars and private yoga sessions.

Our purpose is to ensure our clients and patients leave with an understanding that they not only deserve to take care of themselves, but that it is essential to maintaining their health and wellness.

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted my business, my family, and the businesses I work alongside.

My husband stepped away from his career to raise our daughter, so that I could continue building the business that would support our future. His first day of parental leave was March 6, and on March 17 massage therapy was mandated to close in Alberta.

The first closure was three months. During this time, the business I worked within closed permanently. Once we were allowed to return to work, I weighed the options, and ended up taking on the lease, hopeful that the risk would eventually pay off. I took on a loan, acquiring more debt, when I should have been working to pay down the debt I had before.

We adjusted and amplified our cleaning and disinfection protocols. We called for AHS health inspections voluntarily, and frequently, to ensure we were exceeding all standards. We implemented mandatory masks, from the start. We replaced all furniture with easily disinfected surfaces. We made very expensive, but mandatory changes. Our laundry has more than tripled.

We have COVID pre-screening, which has changed and adapted alongside the pandemic. We made all these changes. Took on enormous debts. I spent endless guilty days, nights, weekends, away from my family – working in fear of another shut-down and the consequences that may cause for us all.

When the premier apologized in November for shutting down personal services during the first lockdown, I felt a small sense of relief. And then two weeks later, they decided to shut us down again.

Massage therapy is a therapeutic necessity in maintaining the quality of life for nearly every single patient we see. Some even have a prescription for treatment – how can it not be considered essential? The COVID-19 pandemic is creating high-stress atmospheres for the majority of people. Along with treating pre-existing conditions, registered massage therapy is highly effective at treating stress and stress-related tension, as well as depression, anxiety, and exhaustion. It is my understanding that Alberta is currently the only province in Canada that has mandated the closure of massage therapy for longer than three weeks during the course of the pandemic.

We are now into our fourth month of mandatory shut down. That’s one third of a year’s treatments disrupted. That’s one third total loss of annual income – not including reduced capacity losses – all while still having to pay operating costs for the months we are legally not able to operate. And that’s being hopeful that this shutdown lasts the minimum four weeks.

Our clients are by appointment only. They are screened prior to arrival. We work one-on-one. There is little to no documented exposure within massage therapy practices.

We carry liability and malpractice insurance, and are registered to an association who will take disciplinary action if protocols are not followed. And yet we are not allowed to work and are told we will not be given exception.

Professions that work in combination with massage therapy, such as chiropractic care, physiotherapy and acupuncture all remain open. Where is the logic? What is the reasoning? So I urge people to contact their premier, MLA, minister, and any other important figure who may help us have an impact. Send them a letter in your own words so it has higher probability of being taken seriously. Let them know that massage therapy is an integral part in maintaining health and wellness. Suggest they re-evaluate this decision. The more voices heard, the greater the impact we can have.

Thank you for your time,

Melanie Faulkner
Slave Lake

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