Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat recently relayed changes that will be made in Singapore’s traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) sector. Speaking at Nanyang Technological University’s convocation ceremony for biomedical sciences and Chinese medicine double degree programme – he said TCM physicians in Singapore would soon undergo lifelong training.

Also, he announced the Health Ministry’s plans to provide the field with a SGD10million grant in R&D grants. This is in line with their efforts to modernise the industry.

Sufficient points required for licensing renewal

Chee elaborated, “Tradition and science can co-exist – it is not about choosing one over the other. It is about integrating the best practices from both traditional and scientific domains.”

The Institute of Chinese Medical Studies often holds accredited events throughout the year. To date, TCM physicians have been encouraged – not required – to attain a minimum of 25 continuous TCM education points annually through these events.

However, the new requirements would render it mandatory for practitioners to gather points for renewal of their practising certificates. Chee explained that this practice is already being done overseas. The exact number of points needed has yet to be finalised, he added.

This new ruling will take effect in a few years following amendments to the TCM Practitioners Act – occurring within the next 12 to 18 months. TCM experts will be given a grace period to adapt to the changes.

“I urge all TCM practitioners to start preparing for this, so that you refresh your skills and knowledge and keep up to date with the latest TCM developments,” advised Chee.

There are currently 3,115 TCM physicians registered with the TCM Practitioners’ Board. Out of those, approximately 26.5% have a bachelors’ degrees and 63% are diploma holders.

A TCM physician, Wong Chin Nai, acknowledged the improvement of standard these changes brings. “But some of the older doctors are wondering if they can have lower requirements; since they have already worked for so long and have a lot of experience,” added the TCM practitioner of almost 50 years.

Grant for training programmes and latest technologies

SGD5million out of the TCM Development Grant will be utilised to enable skill-improvement amongst physicians. The grant applications will be open in January 2018, and will include training for professionals – acupuncturists, clinic assistants and herbal dispensers registered with the TCM Practitioners’ Board.

In addition, accredited course providers can carry out local conferences and training programmes with this fund. Lastly, TCM professionals can tap into the grant to improve efficiency using novel technologies.

Director of TCM company Science Arts, Tan Lee Huak believes the funds will come in handy, especially when conducting talks for industry experts. “Sometimes when we organise talks, only five or eight people show up. But, we have to continue anyway. Hopefully, with the added support, we will be able to continue organising such events,” he lamented.

The other SGD5million will fund research opportunities over a five-year period. It adds to the 2014 SGD3million grant prearranged for research.

Chee spoke to reporters after the event stating that TCM can play promote health and rehabilitation. “After you come out of hospital, how do you help a person to get back, as quickly as possible, to good health? I think things like tuina (therapeutic massage) actually plays a very useful role,” justified Chee. MIMS

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