Natural therapies in the age of COVID: ANTA
The global pandemic has presented an unusual and often-tricky environment for natural therapists. Here, Jim Olds of the Australian Natural Therapists Association discusses pivoting under restrictions and the silver linings emerging from COVID-19.
How have ANTA supported your members nationally throughout COVID-19?
ANTA has remained available to members to assist with answering questions and deciphering the mixed and confusing messages circulated by the various state health departments. ANTA collaborated with three of the largest and relevant associations to ensure our messages to respective member groups were accurate, current and timely to protect and inform members of their level of access to practice and safe workplace practices or alternatively, closures.
ANTA engaged an experienced professional lobbyist to target key personnel within state regulatory frameworks to clarify our members professional status and the correct category for classification of restrictions that may or may not have applied to them.
This strengthened internal structure enabled ANTA to protect and promote the ability of our members to continue operating businesses where it was safe to do so. This meant that when the Melbourne Metropolitan Area moved to Stage 4 Restrictions we were able to support our members with accurate and timely advice to protect them from the risk of infection and inform them of the additional requirements should they be permitted to operate.
For example, ANTA therapists who could service their clients via telehealth consultations were advised how to structure this MO within the current level of restrictions, this increased our members level of safety and diminished their exposure to infection or being fined.
ANTA therapists in regional Victoria were permitted to practice under certain restrictions, the accuracy and dissemination of this information was managed within the group of associations by a specialist practitioner to ensure the communication reached the relevant groups to match their level of restriction.
Members across Australia received increased communications from our administration team to ensure they were receiving the most recent releases and updates to changes in health department messages.
ANTA also partnered with industry educational providers to determine how to provide guidance and support to allow students to graduate with minimal delays to their study periods. This is an ongoing program to assist graduates join professional associations and continue supporting them through continuous professional education and advice from experienced practitioner/educators.
ANTA partners with select organisation to ensure you’re offering the best to the natural therapies industry. Who are some of those organisations/partners and how do you select who you align with?
ANTA collaborated with the largest and most at-risk member organisations by practitioner category, eg Acupuncture, Massage, Remedial Massage, Musculoskeletal Therapists and Myotherapists were perceived to be most at risk due to the nature of the therapies they practice.
These associations included the Myotherapy Association of Australia, the Massage and Myotherapy Association and the Australian Traditional Medicine Society. This group of associations consists of more than 30,000 traditional and natural medicine practitioners across Australia.
Subject matter experts from each association collaborated to deliver consistent messaging in line with data releases from government.
What is a silver lining that has come from COVID-19?
The silver lining is the understanding we are able to mobilise our Board of Directors to respond in a meaningful and timely manner to inform and support practitioner members across multiple disciplines to remain safe and continue to practice appropriately or close down until further notice.
Other valuable experiences resulted from the rapid adoption and adaptation to digital platforms to conduct board meetings, combined association committee meetings, training webinars and the ability to operate an association remotely and effectively through the most appropriate media.
What’s next for ANTA?
Through our recent experience we know we were able to operate and provide services to members through our administration staff adapting to available resources. Our newfound abilities are being reviewed for appropriate integration.
We have adopted hardship strategies regarding fee payments, concessions on fees and support strategies for members emerging from restrictions.
The ANTA Board and Administration understand this COVID 19 event will have lingering effects on our members and we are responding to feedback from our members and providing support in a way that requires novel approaches and the revision of existing systems to ensure they meet the needs of our members.
For more information visit australiannaturaltherapistsassociation.com.au