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DOH aims to regulate 'folk medicine' practitioners

The China Post news staff--The Department of Health (DOH) is working on a set of rules to regulate the practices of “folk medicine chiropractors and physical therapists,” a DOH official said yesterday.

The DOH's policy regarding this matter, however, has yet to be finalized, Hwang Lin-huang (黃林煌), chairman of the department's Committee on Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy (中醫藥委員會), said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the DOH will invite representatives of the Consumers' Foundation and various civic groups to discuss such issues as whether such chiropractors and masseurs should be allowed to share the same premises with practitioners of traditional Chinese internal medicine, according to DOH sources.

During an interpellation session at the Legislature yesterday, Deputy DOH Minister Lai Chin-hsiang (賴進祥) told lawmakers that even if they are allowed to share the same premises, his agency will still try to regulate their practices through a set of rules that call for “seven prohibitions” and “three requirements.”

According to media reports, the DOH hopes to separate practitioners of traditional Chinese internal medicine from folk medicine chiropractors and masseurs and even practitioners of Chinese orthopedics after hearing complaints from patients that they have been treated not by the physicians, but by “non-medical staff” or even unqualified assistants somewhat trained in traditional Chinese orthopedics.

While they may be allowed to remain on the premises, they will have to have separate entrances, will not be allowed to don “white gowns,” and cannot claim disbursements from the National Health Insurance system, according to a Chinese-language newspaper report.

Such practitioners will also be prohibited from advertising the efficacy of their skills, concocting medicinal preparations, and displaying and selling drugs and equipment, among others things.

According to the report, more than 100,000 people in the country try to make a living as folk medicine chiropractors, treating people with chiropractic, massage, spine manipulation, breathing, fire cupping and other skills, which the DOH groups under the designation “traditional therapeutic and chiropractic skills,” the paper said, adding that such practitioners have joined practitioners of traditional Chinese internal medicine to petition the DOH in an attempt to change its position.

While the DOH's call for the withdrawal of non-medical staff from traditional Chinese medicine clinics represents a step in the right direction and has the support of a majority of practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, the Committee on Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy should lose no time in fashioning a system under which the non-medical staff can be educated, tested, and employed, the National Union of Chinese Medicine Doctors Association said in a statement yesterday.

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