by Thomas Crooks
The Australian Health Workforce Ministerial Council has approved the registration standards for the upcoming national regulation of the Chinese medicine industry. In a process that has drawn the ire of acupuncturists and Chinese herbalists across Australia – as well as their industry representatives – the jury is out as to whether these standards will be reflective of the needs of practitioners, the healthcare sector, or the Australian public.
According to a statement released by the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia (CMBA) on February 20, 2012, the Board recognises the difficulties regarding registration of non-English speaking practitioners and those who either attained their qualifications from overseas institutions or from unrecognised Australian training colleges. Chinese medicine practitioners believe these two factors present considerable challenges for the CMBA in terms of ensuring the provision of an acceptable standard of healthcare for the complementary medicine consuming public.
The statement, sent to practitioners via email and published on the CMBA website requires that the English-speaking standard will be held to an IELTS level of 6.0, a rating that signifies competency in English, for applicants registering until 30th June 2015. Practitioners who wish to register after 2015 will be required to demonstrate an IELTS level of 7.0 – the equivalent to five years education in English and a high level of command of the language. These standards will provide considerable difficulty for the large proportion of Chinese medicine practitioners from non-English speaking backgrounds.Associate Professor Chris Zaslawski, Director of the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine within the Department of Medical and Molecular Sciences at the University of Technology, Sydney played down the concerns of practitioners saying that registration “is to protect the public. It is not for promotion of the profession or of Chinese medicine”.
The industry’s peak representative body, The Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA) is holding information sessions for members to voice concerns over the process as well as to provide support on what some are calling an arduous application process. The CMRB is holding similar sessions, regionally and in all capital cities across the country.