Letter to My Professional Association: Prescription for Bold Reform

Dear colleagues,

I have submitted a letter to the Registered Massage Therapist Association of Ontario (RMTAO) requesting their urgent consideration of four initiatives I believe essential to the good health and future of the profession.  The board has received my letter and has promised a critical review in the upcoming early March meeting.

I wrote this letter because I, like you, rely on a strong professional association to advocate for massage therapist interests and provide essential services.  Although established for almost 22 years now, I still rely on the professional association to support me in providing my craft and earning my livelihood, and ensuring the same opportunity for the practitioners that follow.

I believe in this economic climate and its associated challenges that bold moves are necessary.  Our profession simply isn’t keeping up with the rapid changes happening in and to our industry, and I’m calling on our elected board of directors to consider strong and clear action in four areas.

For my arguments to carry weight, the board needs to hear from many RMTs, both from within Ontario and broad, as to how important these initiatives are for massage therapists everywhere.  Please consider sending your support in an email to info@rmtao.com, or if you’re an RMTAO member you can find the RMTAO officers at https://secure.rmtao.com/connect/with_rmtao/connect_with_rmtao.htm

Your practice, your profession, your livelihood.  Please send a positive, affirming message today.

Here are my recommendations:

i) Better Use of Knowledge-Capital:   We have articulate, brilliant thought-leaders in this profession with foresight and hindsight…and we’re squandering their gifts.  We have entry-level practitioners with energy and new ideas, and we’re not channeling their enthusiasm effectively.  Our profession faces serious threats and it needs to create organized opportunities for exchange.

Along with the down-turn in Ontario’s economy, massage therapist practice is ravaged many threats to viability, including unfavourable government health care and taxation policy, insurance claim denial and reimbursement issues, territorial gatekeeper health disciplines (and their ambitious assistants) and profiteers and exploiters who would cash in on the popularity and funding (via workplace benefit plans).

We read in social media RMTs are finding it harder to access and service claims in auto-insurance and WSIB.  RMTs are experiencing more claim denials and resistance from gatekeeper health professionals asked to authorize treatment plans.  Insurance fraud and a paucity of credible research leads to skepticism from insurance adjudicators.  These threats are emerging, insidious and imminent and a profession-wide discussion and response is long past due.

We need to tap into our profession’s thought-leaders and employ them in think-tanks in addressing the core issues.  We need town-hall meetings, virtual symposiums and social media to hear from open-eyed front-line RMTs in daily practice as to their experiences and struggles.  We need to engender two way communication, dialogue, debate and ultimately action towards looming threats and plausible opportunities.

ii) Collaborate with RMT Associations (and eventually) Kinship CAM Professions – the Canadian Massage Therapist Alliance has as its mandate to foster research, build relations with insurers and support regulation in the Canadian massage therapy profession.  Its membership includes 7 provinces and 1 territory.  The province with the largest RMT representation – Ontario – is not a member.  With a national body, resources could be pooled in public and media relations, preferred pricing in products and services for members, education and training, advocacy to government, insurers and gatekeeper health disciplines.

Further, we can consider building formal relations with kinship CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) professions chiropractic, naturopathy, and acupuncture/ traditional Chinese medicine – all pursuing similar objectives in education and training, public and media relations, favorable government policy and fair insurance claim reimbursement.  Collaboration could achieve far more than the current modus operandi of acting unilaterally, and should be considered a primary objective in the RMTAO’s strategic plan.

iii) Make Operations Sustainable – The decision some years ago to lower RMTAO membership rates to attract members gained a marginal increase in membership but left the organization with a short-fall of resources (deficits in 2010/2011). [1]  With scant resources, the RMTAO can employ only three staff members, while the board is over-weighted at 14 volunteers.  Compare this to the Massage Therapist Association of British Columbia (MTABC) who, with a smaller number of RMTs to draw from, posted generous income over expenses[2], twice the operating budget of the RMTAO, and maintain a staff of nine.

Remarkably, the MTABC retains 80% of all BC RMTs as members (RMTAO’s retains 41% of all RMTs in Ontario) despite the fact the MTABC membership fee is four times more.  I propose the operations model is not sustainable, and the association in unable to serve the needs and expectations of its membership.  I suggest tripling the membership fee for the 2013 year to bring in needed resources, reduce the board to 6 members for faster decision making, and increase the staff to six to better implement board directives.

iv)  Collect, Collate and Share Professional Data– RMTs have minimal information about the profession to make business decisions or measure efforts against benchmarks.  The RMTAO can poll members annually and collect information such as:

  • age, gender, location, years in practice
  • sector served (spa, rehab, CAM, workplace wellness)
  • estimated work capacity/week, and average workload/week
  • annual net income (line 236 of tax return, after business expenses but before personal income taxes deducted)
  • other sources of income earned a) within RMT profession b) in a non-related field
  • employment status:  employer/business owner or employee/contractor RMT
  • qualitative Qx: a) Do you enjoy your work? b) Have you any health effects from work? c) Do your earnings provide for you, or do you need more than your current income for basics? d) What are the core problems/issues facing the RMT profession?
  • read annual report RMTAO Y N?  CMTO Y N?

This information can be captured, collated and then shared to help RMTs make better business decisions and provide essential information for prospective RMT students or those close to graduation.  Better yet, the RMTAO can join with the regulatory body (CMTO) to collect essential information across a broad scope of the profession.  This service alone would be a clear advantage of RMTAO membership.

Thank you for your time and careful consideration.

Don Dillon, RMT

[1] from the RMTAO Special General Meeting 2012 report

[2] data from the MTABC AGM Program, June 3, 2012

One thought on “Letter to My Professional Association: Prescription for Bold Reform

  1. You’ve got some valid points but motivating the profession to get involved has always been the problem. We know there are great minds, RMT’s that have tremendous knowledge. However we seem to only get a few that come forward and then we burn them out with the demand of volunteer time.

    The one point I don’t agree with is the fees. The entire time I served on the board, the membership fluctuated between 19-23% (approx.) and it wasn’t until the fees were drastically cut that we saw the membership numbers rise. They’ve been steadily climbing since. The number of staff has not changed from the time when higher fees were charged. Reason for this is because the decision was made to decrease fees and decrease services offered by the association. Most members did not value the extras included in their membership, like decreased fees for GoodLife, the Rewards Program for discount hotels and car rentals, discount home and auto insurance…etc. Those were then offered as a fee for service option that you could add onto membership. This allows the Association to see how many members buy into these programs and the ones that were not supported enough were dropped.

    By charging more for membership to the Association, you greatly risk losing the increase of 15-18% in membership that has been achieved over the past few years. If you go back to even before my time on the board as well as the time I served, there was never an increase in membership regardless of the support and services offered to RMT’s, advocacy to the public (remember the magazine ads) or representation we used to have in the WSIB and Auto Insurance industries.

    We struggled with the fact we ONLY represented 20% of the profession and the fact it didn’t carry much weight. 40% is a HUGE step forward when you consider how many decades we were stalled at half that percentage. I was one of the board members that struggled with the decision to lower the rates for fear of viability issues. It was a huge risk. But, I believe if the Association stays the course, the percentage will continue to grow and with most of the renewal and services offered handled by website programming the burden to the staff will be minimal as membership grows.

    Growing the membership and connection to the profession is a great way to reach all those great minds that have so much to give to this profession. That pool of people will continue to grow as membership does and the work needed to promote this profession will fall on more shoulders, rather than less.

    If membership rates were significantly increased, I believe the membership numbers will drop drastically. RMT’s will go back to working in their clinic enviroment with the only contact to the profession and information being that which the CMTO sends them.


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