Public Consultation On Proposed Amendments To The Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners Act

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Ministry of Health

Consultation Period: 05 Apr 2018 - 03 May 2018
Status: Closed - Summary of Responses
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Summary of Key Feedback and Responses

The Ministry of Health (MOH) invited stakeholders and members of the public to provide feedback on the draft Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners (TCMP) (Amendment) Bill from 5 Apr to 3 May 2018. The objectives of the TCMP (Amendment) Bill are to (i) raise standards of the profession and practice, (ii) ensure patient safety and public assurance in TCM, (iii) clarify the structure of the disciplinary framework, and (iv) bring about greater alignment with the corresponding provisions in the Acts of the other healthcare professions.

2. Since Jul 2016, MOH had started engaging the TCM community on the proposed changes to the TCMPA. In Mar 2018, TCM community leaders also attended a briefing on the proposed amendments before the launch of the public consultation. At the close of the public consultation exercise in May 2018, MOH received comments and feedback from 3 major TCM organisations, 21 individual TCMPs, and 9 members of the public. The Singapore TCM Organisations Coordinating Committee (STCMOCC)1 and the NTU Chinese Medicine Alumni Association provided consolidated feedback.

Summary of Feedback

3. The feedback indicated general support for the amendments to enhance professional standards of TCMPs, through the tightening of the disciplinary processes and implementation of a compulsory Continuing Professional Education (CPE) programme. Majority of feedback received were related to CPE, in particular the quality and availability of CPE courses and the corresponding financial impact on TCMPs.

4. Some provided feedback on the proposed increase in maximum financial penalty from the existing $10,000 to $50,000. Some felt the increase was disproportionate to the salaries of TCMPs. There were also suggestions that there should be corresponding recognition for TCM e.g. recognition of medical certificates (MCs) issued by TCMPs, and the provision of subsidies for TCM treatment under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) or Pioneer Generation Scheme (PG), in tandem with the proposed increased penalties.

5. MOH also received other feedback on the TCM sector, such as suggestions on greater representation from the TCM profession on the TCMP Board, increasing the maximum financial penalty for illegal practice of TCM, and creating an additional option for complaints to be referred for mediation.

Next Steps

6. MOH has carefully considered all the feedback. Kindly refer to the Annex for MOH’s detailed responses to the key feedback received. MOH will address and include suitable suggestions in the draft Bill.

7. MOH would like to thank all stakeholders and members of the public for participating in this public consultation exercise. If there are further clarifications needed, please feel free to write to moh_qsm@moh.gov.sg.



1There are eight TCM organisations under STCMOCC, namely Singapore Chinese Physicians’ Association (SPCA), Association for Promoting Chinese Medicines (APCM), Singapore Chinese Medical Union (SCMU), Singapore Thong Chai Medical Institution (STCMI), Singapore Acupuncture Association (SAA), Singapore College of TCM Alumni Association (SCTAA), Society of Chinese Medicine Research (SCMR) and Society of Traditional Chinese Medicine (STCM).
Detailed Description

PUBLIC CONSULTATION ON PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE PRACTITIONERS ACT
INTRODUCTION

1. The Ministry of Health (MOH) would like to invite feedback on the proposed amendments to the Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners Act 2000 (TCMPA). The public consultation will be held from 5 April to 3 May 2018, and feedback can be submitted via the online feedback form available at www.moh.gov.sg/tcmpa2018 or via email, post or fax.

BACKGROUND

2. The TCMPA was enacted in 2000. Under the Act, a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners Board (TCMPB) was established to:

i) Register practitioners engaging in prescribed practices of TCM in Singapore;
ii) Accredit courses in the practice of TCM for the purpose of registration;
iii) Regulate conduct and ethics of registered persons; and
iv) Make recommendations on the continuing training and education of registered practitioners.

3. Over the years, the TCMPB has progressively put in place programmes and frameworks to raise the professional standards of TCM practitioners (TCMPs) in Singapore. As we continue to boost professionalism within the TCM sector, the TCMPA needs to be reviewed to reflect the changing practice environment and to ensure continued relevance of the Act.

4. As part of the review, changes are being proposed to further enhance the standards of the TCM profession. The disciplinary framework will also be enhanced to strengthen professionalism and keep the TCMPA relevant for the future.

SCOPE OF THE CONSULTATION EXERCISE

5. The key proposed amendments to the TCMPA are as follows:

A. Provide for the appointment and prescribe the functions of the Complaints Review Committee (CRC)

6. The current TCMPA provides for the appointment of Investigation Committee (IC) to investigate any complaint or matter in respect of which the TCMPB may take action against registered persons under the Act. The TCMPB has been appointing a Committee under section 10(1), to conduct preliminary inquiries to sieve out unmeritorious complaints. To enhance the structure and process of the disciplinary framework, the amended TCMPA will formalise the appointment of the Complaints Review Committee (CRC) and the powers needed for it to carry out this function.

7. The CRC will be empowered to carry out preliminary investigations on the complaint referred to it by the TCMPB, and submit its findings and recommendations to the TCMPB. The amended TCMPA will allow the CRC to make any of the following recommendations to the TCMPB:

a. Dismiss the case, or issue a letter of advice/ warning; or
b. Refer the complaint to an Investigation Committee (IC) or a Health Committee (HC).

8. The revised disciplinary process proposed can be found in Annex A.

B. Extend timeframe for investigation process of CRCs and ICs

9. To give TCMPs sufficient time to prepare their defence and to align the timeframes for investigation with the other healthcare professional Acts1, the amended TCMPA will specify that the maximum time allowed for the investigation by the CRC and IC will be 3 months and 6 months respectively. A CRC or IC can apply to the TCMPB Chairman for an extension of time, if necessary, due to the complexity of the matter or serious difficulties encountered in completing its inquiry.

C. Increase sanctions for errant TCMPs

10. Currently, the TCMP Board can censure, fine up to $10,000, or impose conditions, suspend or cancel the registration of a TCMP if he is found guilty of professional misconduct, negligence or the other offences under section 19 of the TCMPA. To provide sufficient deterrence, the amended TCMPA will provide for the increased maximum fine of $50,000. This is in line with the corresponding provisions in the Dental Registration Act, Pharmacists Registration Act, and Allied Health Professions Act. The TCMPB may also order errant TCMPs to give such undertakings as it deems fit, to abstain from certain conduct in future.

D. Enhance powers for investigation

11. In order to allow investigators to carry out more effective investigations into alleged professional misconduct of TCMPs and illegal TCM practices, the amended TCMPA will include powers for search and seizure, powers to record statements, and powers for disposal of exhibits. This is in addition to the existing authority of investigation officers to enter and inspect any premises which are used or proposed to be used to carry out any prescribed practice of TCM, and to inquire into the conditions under which any prescribed practice of TCM is being or is proposed to be carried out.

E. Conduct of Health Inquiry

12. Under the current TCMPA, the TCMPB is unable to conduct a health inquiry into a TCMP’s fitness to practice separate from an inquiry into professional misconduct. In order to better differentiate between the health inquiry of the practitioners’ fitness from professional misconduct, the amended TCMPA will empower the TCMPB to form HC to conduct such a health inquiry.

13. The amended TCMPA will also provide the TCMP Board with powers to temporarily suspend a TCMP’s practice for a period not exceeding 18 months, if it is deemed necessary for the protection of members of the public or in the interests of the TCMP concerned.

F. Continuing Professional Education (CPE) requirements to be made Compulsory

14. CPE is important in ensuring that the TCMPs keep current in the practice of TCM. Since January 2013, the TCMPB has implemented a voluntary CPE programme, and the TCMPs have responded favourably. Feedback gathered from the TCM community at the focus-group discussions indicate that the community is supportive of the introduction of compulsory CPE to raise the standards of the TCM profession.

15. With the amendment of the Act, CPE will be made compulsory for TCMPs. Details on the CPE requirements will subsequently be prescribed in the TCMP Regulations.

G. Publication of list of registered TCMPs

16. The current TCMPA requires the Registrar prepare and publish in the Gazette a list of names, addresses, qualifications and dates of qualifications of all registered persons. To make it easier and more convenient for the public to search for information about registered TCMPs, the TCMPA will be amended to require that the information be published on the TCMPB’s internet website.

PUBLIC CONSULTATION

17. The public is invited to participate in the online public consultation exercise on the draft amendments over 4 weeks, from 5 April to 3 May 2018.

18. During the exercise, feedback can be submitted to MOH via the online feedback form available at www.moh.gov.sg/tcmpa2018 or via email, post or fax. The modes of feedback are listed below:

i) By Post:
Ministry of Health
TCMPA Public Consultation
College of Medicine Building
16 College Road
Singapore 169854

ii) By Email: moh_qsm@moh.gov.sg

iii) By Fax:
6224 1677

DOCUMENTS TO DOWNLOAD

19. For further reference, please click here to download the relevant documents related to this public consultation exercise:

1 The Medical Registration Act (MRA), Dental Registration Act (DRA), Pharmacists Registration Act (PRA), and Allied Health Professions Act (AHPA).