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Time running out for Chinese medicine practitioners to get licensed in Ontario

By Rob Cypher, Mar 25, 2013 | |
  1. Rob Cypher
    Time is running out for traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists to continue practising in Ontario: on April 1 a new licensing regulation kicks in.

    Although most knew the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario — a self-regulating body similar to the College of Physicians and Surgeons — would be established this spring, they say they only learned of the exact implementation date in late February.

    Registration began that month, leaving practitioners scrambling to get police checks, transcripts and other documents in time to avoid disruption to their practice and patient care.

    “I’m all for regulations, but the problem is it’s such a rushed process. If you don’t get a registration number by April 1 and are caught practising, you will be fined $25,000,” said acupuncturist and nutritionist Melissa Ramos, who runs Sexy Food Therapy on Danforth Ave. “We have to take the jurisprudence and safety tests. A lot of people are not able to take them because the room is packed and they couldn’t get in.”

    Hong Zhao, who has a postgraduate degree from the Yunnan College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China and has practised in Toronto since 1996, took her jurisprudence test in November and was scheduled to take the safety exam last Saturday. She fears having to cancel her April appointments, and hopes the college will allow practitioners a grace period while their applications are in process. “I don’t know how long I have to wait for the registration,” said Zhao, who runs a clinic near Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave.

    The college said it had publicly announced — through emails to individuals, industry associations and stakeholders, and through its website and information sessions, that it will take three to six weeks to review applications. “The College completely sympathizes with the situation of these practitioners if they experience temporary disruption after April 1,” the regulator’s spokesperson, Conrad Tang, said in an email. “It is not the intent of the college to frustrate the provision of health care, but to ensure that it is delivered in a manner in which the public is protected.” Tang said there were enough opportunities and spaces provided for practitioners to attempt the qualifying tests. “We regret that individuals chose to wait to the very last minute.”

    Practitioners must pass both exams. About 1,000 are expected to become members immediately on April 1. Opponents of the government’s move to regulate Chinese medicine estimated that some 2,000 practitioners — many working in the GTA — will be forced out of business for failing to meet the requirements.

    Jane Cheung, an acting vice-president of the Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Association of Canada, said expecting applicants to complete the registration within a month is a bit rushed, but it’s not impossible. Born and raised in London, Ont., Cheung said her great-grandfather practised traditional Chinese medicine in Guangdong, China, and her father, Cedric, continued the family tradition in Canada.

    Chinese medicine has become more recognized in Canada over the past decade, with a growing number of non-Chinese patients exploring the option and learning about ancient forms of treatment that use herbal remedies, acupuncture, massage and dietary therapy.

    “I feel a lot of us are used to running our own business. Suddenly, we have rules. No one wants to have rules to tell us what to do,” said Cheung, explaining the reasons some opposed the new regulations. Cheung has a science degree from the University of Western Ontario and has run the Traditional Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture Oshawa Clinic for 11 years. “We have to think what is best for the profession in the long run,” she said. “The regulation will bring forth a new era for the TCM profession in Ontario.”

    Nicholas Keung
    Toronto Star
    Sun Mar 24 2013



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