Ontario Becomes Second Canadian Province to Regulate Chinese Medicine
By Tina Beychok, Associate Editor
On Dec. 20, 2006, Ontario became the second Canadian province to regulate traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) when Bill 50 passed the Legislative Assembly of Ontario with royal assent. TCM is the first new health profession in Ontario to be regulated since 1991.
Ontario joins British Columbia as the only Canadian provinces in which TCM currently is regulated.
Before regulation was established, no restrictions existed on whom could call themselves a TCM practitioner. In the absence of regulation or licensure, potential patients had no way of knowing which practitioners possessed the appropriate education and training requirements for safe practice.
A self-governing, regulatory college, named the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners of Ontario, has been created with the authority to set standards of practice and entry to practice requirements for the profession. The college is a self-regulatory body operating under the provincial government. The government of British Columbia established a similar college, called the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of British Columbia, in 1996. According to the bill:
The scope of practice of traditional Chinese medicine is the assessment of body system disorders using traditional Chinese medicine techniques and treatment using traditional Chinese medicine therapies to promote, maintain or restore health. The College Council will be composed of at least six and no more than nine persons who are members of the College, and at least five and no more than eight persons appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. The Council shall have a President and Vice-President elected annually by Council.
The Bill restricts the use of the titles 'traditional Chinese medicine practitioner' and 'acupuncturist' to members of the College. No person other than a member may hold themselves out as qualified to practice as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner or acupuncturist. Anyone who contravenes these restrictions is guilty of an offense and on conviction is liable to a maximum fine of $5,000 for a first offence and a maximum of $10,000 for a subsequent offence.
The Registrar must notify each member of the College if the Minister refers a suggested statutory or regulatory amendment under the new Act to the Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council. The College Council, with Ministerial review and the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, may make regulations:
Regulating standards of practice respecting the circumstances in which traditional Chinese medicine practitioners shall make referrals to members of other regulated health professions;
Regulating therapies involving the practice of traditional Chinese medicine, governing the use of prescribed therapies and prohibiting the use of therapies other than the prescribed therapies in the course of the practice of traditional Chinese medicine.
Regulating or prohibiting the use of the title "doctor," a variation or abbreviation or an equivalent in another language by members in respect of their practice; and
Requiring a class of certificates of registration for members who use the title "doctor" and imposing terms, conditions and limitations on certificates of registration of this class.
"This legislation regulating traditional Chinese medicine will help ensure that Ontarians who choose alternative health care like TCM and acupuncture are receiving safe, quality care from practitioners who have recognized skills and training, said Health and Long-Term Care Minister, George Smitherman. "I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the hard work of members on all sides of the Legislature who had a hand in making this legislation a reality, to the benefit of TCM practitioners, acupuncturists and Ontario patients."
While Smitherman and others hail the passage of Bill 50 as a significant step forward for the acupuncture and Oriental medicine profession in Canada, several professional associations within the province fought against the bill, arguing that the government's criteria for determining "sufficient educational level" is not clearly defined, as the bill would permit a variety of health care professionals to perform acupuncture while, at the same time, removing some of the rights and privileges of traditional Chinese medicine doctors. Marylou Lombardi, president of the Ontario Association of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, expressed concern that the bill, as written, would allow people with inadequate hours of training to practice TCM.