Patients ‘out in the cold’ as new rules exclude myotherapy massage

Melburnians who want to book remedial massages with their myotherapists must wait longer for face-to-face treatment, despite restrictions on in-person appointments being lifted for allied health services.

Under the latest easting of restrictions announced by the state government on Sunday, all Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency-registered allied health workers can start holding routine consultations in person, provided they adhere to strict infection control measures.

Myotherapy – a form of physical therapy used to treat soft tissue pain and restricted joint movement – is not yet formally recognised as an allied health service in some parts of Australia.

Many allied health professionals, including dentists, had started seeing patients in recent weeks after Premier Daniel Andrews lifted some restrictions on elective surgeries and routine dentistry.

Professions formally recognised under the umbrella of allied health include psychologists, physiotherapists, social workers, dieticians, occupational therapists, medical radiation practitioners, chiropractors, social workers, speech pathologists, osteopaths and optometrists.

However, myotherapy – a form of physical therapy used to treat or prevent soft tissue pain and restricted joint movement – is not yet formally recognised as an allied health service in some parts of Australia and has not been included among services permitted to treat patients in person.

Its exclusion would leave hundreds of thousands of myotherapy patients "out in the cold", Myotherapy Association Australia chief executive Anna Yerondais said on Monday.



"Conservatively, I estimate that nearly 350,000 Melburnians have not been able to seek treatment from their trusted myotherapist since August," she said.

Myotherapists were restricted from treating patients from March 31 under Victoria's COVID-19 restrictions. However, Myotherapy Association Australia lobbied the Department of Health in April, resulting in myotherapists being allowed to treat patients under strict conditions, solely for treatment plans under the National Disability Insurance Scheme and WorkCover.

However, they have not been permitted to conduct routine treatments in person, and there has been no indication of when they would be allowed to do so.

"It is frustrating that, despite having an additional seven months to get used to the COVID situation, Victoria’s response is less evidence-based and less consultative today than it was in March," Ms Yerondais said.

She said all myotherapists had completed infection control training and had the knowledge to keep their practices safe and clean.

"Myotherapists should be back treating their patients, like their allied health colleagues," she said.

An email sent to Massage and Myotherapy Australia members said Victoria's chief allied health officer, Donna Markham of Safer Care Victoria, had advised the association that massage therapy, remedial massage therapy and myotherapy were not included in the latest easing of restrictions.

"This is not the news any of us wanted to hear today and we are fully aware how devastating these restrictions have been for our metropolitan Melbourne members," Massage and Myotherapy Australia chief executive Ann Davey wrote.

"The focus of staged restrictions has been on ensuring public safety and controlling the gradual increase in the movement of individuals within their community, including limiting the number of health practitioners who may be providing prolonged interpersonal care and services."

Ms Davey said in the email she was hopeful restrictions on the industry would be eased by November 1.

Face-to-face appointments for audiology, exercise physiology, orthotists and prosthetists and healthcare workers providing support for orthoptics, art therapy and music therapy have also been given the go-ahead, but indoor group classes are still not permitted.

"We are delighted that a broad range of allied health professionals have had the restrictions lifted," Allied Health Professions Australia chief executive Claire Hewat said. "In fact, all allied health professions, which are recognised as being allied health professions, have been given that opening now, so we are very pleased about that."

General practitioners and specialists have been permitted to see patients in person throughout the pandemic if they required in-person consultations.

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