Registration Of TCM Practitioners Mandatory By Year-End

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- Malaysia's traditional medicine industry is set to become more regulated and be integrated into the national healthcare system once the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Council is established by year-end.

The council is provided under the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Act 2016, which was gazetted on March 10 and enforced on Aug 1.

Director of the Health Ministry's Traditional and Complementary Medicine (TCM) division Dr Goh Cheng Soon said once the council is set up, it would become mandatory for all TCM practitioners in the country to seek registration and obtain a practising certificate.

Those who fail to register with the council face a fine not exceeding RM30,000 or a jail term not exceeding two years, or both. Subsequent offenders can be slapped with a fine of not more than RM50,000 or imprisonment not exceeding three years, or both.

Asked if there would be a grace period for TCM practitioners to register with the TCM council, Goh said the ministry has not decided on this yet.

Prior to the implementation of the new legislation, TCM practitioners chose to register with the Health Ministry on a voluntary basis, with some 13,000 professional and non-professional practitioners having registered so far, said Goh.

Official figures on the exact number of TCM practitioners in Malaysia are not available but it is understood that the number could be "substantial", with many of them not possessing proper qualifications and credentials.

Citing the Health Ministry's National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 findings, Goh said some 29.25 per cent of Malaysians sought the services of TCM practitioners throughout their lives.

ENHANCING QUALITY

Goh said the government found it vital to set up the TCM council due to the rapid development of the TCM industry and the complementary role it played alongside allopathic medicine.

She said besides regulating TCM practices in Malaysia, the council's specific focus would be on enhancing the quality of TCM services provided by government hospitals and private entities.

"We're making it mandatory for TCM practitioners to register with the (TCM) council, mainly to ensure the safety and quality of the services that they are offering to the public," she told Bernama.

According to the TCM Act, the council will be chaired by the Director-General of Health and comprise, among others, representatives from the Health Ministry, local universities with expertise in TCM fields and designated TCM practitioner bodies or associations in Malaysia.

The act interprets TCM practice as "a form of health-related practice designed to prevent, treat or manage ailment or illness, or preserve the mental and physical well-being of an individual, and includes such practices as traditional Malay, Chinese and Indian medicine, Islamic medical practice, homeopathy and complementary therapies."

PRACTISING CERTIFICATE

Under the act, any person intending to practice TCM in any recognised practice area, field or speciality must apply to the council to be provisionally registered as a practitioner. A provisionally registered practitioner has to undergo one-year residency or specialised training with any institution or hospital recognised by the TCM council.

However, the council is empowered to exempt TCM practitioners with substantial experience, knowledge and skill in any recognised practice area from the one-year residency.

Goh said in order to be eligible for registration, the practitioners would have to meet the required criteria, which include having qualifications as specified by the TCM council. Those who meet all the requirements would be issued a practising certificate, she added.

The TCM Act, meanwhile, also requires registered practitioners to adhere to a code of professional conduct and rules to be developed by the TCM council, which will also prescribe mandatory practice standards and practice codes, as well as penalties for breach of such codes or rules.

The act also allows the council to exercise disciplinary jurisdiction over any registered practitioner who has conducted himself in such a manner as to bring the profession into disrepute; failed to comply with the mandatory practice standards and practice codes; and committed serious professional misconduct.

The act empowers the council to establish a disciplinary mechanism to look into public complaints against registered practitioners.

TCM SERVICES AT GOVERNMENT HOSPITALS

The government introduced TCM to the public healthcare sector in 2007, with Hospital Kepala Batas in Penang being the first hospital in the country to have a TCM unit.

As of December 2015, a total of 14 TCM units have been established in various hospitals nationwide. In 2012, TCM services were extended to primary healthcare centres, beginning with Klinik Kesihatan Masai in Johor and Klinik Kesihatan Meranti in Kelantan.

Among the services available at the TCM unit are Malay traditional massage for stroke patients; post-natal care; acupuncture treatment for stroke patients; herbal treatment for cancer patients; and ayurveda massage and treatment for patients suffering from chronic pain, insomnia, headaches and anxiety.

According to Goh, the ministry has been facing various challenges in its efforts to integrate TCM into the healthcare system and regulate the industry.

She said one of the main issues it faced was standardising TCM practices in terms of specifying, establishing and recognising the required qualifications for each field of practice.

"Not all TCM practitioners in this country are trained (or qualified)...once the TCM Act is properly enforced, it will help to inject more professionalism into the industry," she said.

The other challenges include using modern medical methodologies to carry out clinical studies on TCM to prove that its treatments and services were evidence-based, she said, adding that it was also a challenge convincing modern medical practitioners to refer their patients to TCM practitioners as they lacked confidence in traditional medicine.

Goh said public response to the TCM units in government hospitals has been encouraging; a study carried out from July to October 2015 to determine the level of customer satisfaction with the TCM services at Hospital Kepala Batas, Hospital Putrajaya and Hospital Sultan Ismail in Johor showed a high level of satisfaction.

"Under the study, the respondents were told to rate their level of satisfaction on their progress, as well as various aspects of the services and facilities available at the hospitals' TCM units. In most instances, their level of satisfaction exceeded 90 per cent," she added.

-- BERNAMA