Wards for Chinese medicine urged

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 August, 2007, 12:00am

Call for practitioners to run units in hospitals

Wards run by practitioners of Chinese medicine should be set up in public hospitals, a top medical school official has suggested.

Che Chun-tao, director of Chinese University's school of Chinese medicine, also hoped the Hospital Authority could open up more training positions for fresh graduates in Chinese medicine.

The authority has launched pilot schemes in public hospitals in recent years, allowing doctors to invite Chinese medicine practitioners to provide co-consultation and treatment to in-patients at the request of patients. The hospitals' doctors, however, could refuse the request.

'The western medicine doctors are the ones in charge,' Professor Che said. 'They have to take ultimate responsibility for the patients.

'If they don't understand much about Chinese medicine they may not be willing to let the Chinese medicine practitioners treat their patients. Chinese medicine practitioners are in a passive position.'

He suggested that wards for Chinese medicine run by these practitioners be set up in the public hospitals to give patients a choice.

He said a trial could be started - especially for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, and for rehabilitation - where Chinese medicine sometimes outperformed western medicine. For example, acupuncture has been found to be effective in treating stroke or paralysed patients.

'However, if a patient's condition deteriorates suddenly and needs emergency resuscitation, the herbalists will still need backup from their western counterparts,' he said.

Because of the lack of in-patient Chinese medical care in the city, the university sends students to Guangdong for training. Professor Che urged the Hospital Authority to provide more training posts for fresh graduates in Chinese medicine.

The authority offers only about 45 junior positions for fresh graduates in its nine Chinese-medicine clinics, whereas graduates - from Chinese University, Baptist University and University of Hong Kong - number about 100 a year.

Professor Che said that despite the rapid development of Chinese medicine in recent years, various barriers were still hindering research in Hong Kong.

For example, the law forbids Chinese medicine practitioners from drawing blood from patients, which makes it difficult to test the efficacy of a certain medicine. It was also more difficult for Chinese medicine schools to raise funds compared with their western counterparts, he said.

The director of strategy and planning of the Hospital Authority, Vivian Wong Taam Chi-woon, said innovative models of interface were being developed by the public hospitals to facilitate patients' choices on Chinese medicine, western medicine and shared-care services.

The authority has established nine Chinese medicine clinics and five more will be set up in phases in the next two years, providing more positions for new graduates, she said. Each clinic recruits five new graduates every year.

Medical Association president Choi Kin said that all public hospitals in Hong Kong catered for western medicine. He suggested that Chinese medicine practitioners could provide rehabilitative services in the community rather than in the hospitals.