Responsibility for the various practices of Taiwanese traditional medicine lies with the Department of Health (DOH), officials from the Executive Yuan said yesterday, responding to a spate of incidents in recent days.
Officials of the Consumer Protection Committee of the Executive Yuan said the department has been mandated as the supervisory and regulatory agency for traditional healing, folk therapy, herbal remedies and alternative medicines.
The announcement came after several widely publicized cases of patients suffering severe injuries and physical harm in recent days, with one of the cases almost resulting in death.
However, the victims said they did not know which government agency was responsible for receiving medical malpractice lawsuits and for compensation.
The treatments are listed in the Department of Health Act on Folk Healing Regulation (民俗調理之管理規定事項), which was first introduced on April 15, 2010, then updated on May 29 this year to include an additional listing for traditional forms of folk therapy and alternative medicines.
The act states that traditional chiropractic acupressure, massage, guasha — a form of skin scraping — reflexology, “fire cupping,” plaster ointment application, herbal medicine plaster ointment and herbal foot baths can not make claims for their medical efficacy and fines can be levied for violations.
Huang Lin-huang (黃林煌), a committee member, said these would fall under the responsibility of the Department of Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy in the new Ministry of Health and Welfare, to be established on Jan. 1, which will be responsible for investigating consumer complaints of malpractice in these fields.
Huang said there was still no clear definition of practitioners of traditional folk healing and medicine and therefore when the Department of Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy is formed next year, it would make “delineation of the various practices for supervisory control and introduce a professional licensing system.”
Huang, the head of DOH committee on traditional medicine, said other forms of therapy, such as body slapping, tendon stretching, wall-hitting taichi and traditional massage would all fall under the jurisdiction of the new department.
He put the number of practitioners at 200,000 and of those, about 20,000 are in the chiropractic acupressure and other similar traditional Taiwanese-style chiropractic physiotherapy practices, which would be the first group targeted for supervisory control.
The next group would be traditional massage and reflexology practitioners, Huang said, then guasha and “fire cupping,” and the agency would also impose registration requirements for specialized stores selling herbal grass tea and bitter tea (camellia oil tea), which are taken as therapeutical remedies by many Taiwanese.
Practitioners would be required to pass tests on their basic knowledge and technical understanding of their field of practice, Huang added.