PETALING JAYA: Chinese traditional and complementary medicine (TCM) practitioner groups in the country can now operate following the revision in the standard operating procedure for the first phase of the National Recovery Plan.
In a joint statement, the Federation of Chinese Physicians and Medicine Dealers Associations of Malaysia, Federation of Chinese Physicians & Acupuncturists Association of Malaysia, Malaysian Chinese Medical Association and Malaysian Chinese Medical Society of Epidemic Control and Prevention said they welcomed the move.
“We call on colleagues in traditional Chinese medicine to strictly abide with the SOP to operate,” they added.
They also lauded Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong and various parties for highlighting their predicament to the relevant authorities.
TCM was previously allowed to operate following appeals made by their associations during the two earlier movement control orders.
However, due to the lockdown from June 1 followed by Phase One of the NRP, the TCM industry was again restricted from operating.
According to the latest SOP, updated on July 31, TCM practitioners can now provide services in premises licensed by local governments and not at the home of the practitioner or client.
While maintaining physical distancing, practitioners can conduct face-to-face consultations, including acupuncture and chiropractic services.
Each service is limited to one person and has a time limit of an hour at the treatment room.
However, online consultation or teleconsultation is encouraged.
Practitioners are required to wear three-ply surgical masks, face shields, gloves and disposable gowns.
While the ointment used is specific to one customer and cannot be shared, the SOP also requires all reusable equipment to be cleaned and disinfected accordingly.
Disposable mats or linens used during the service, such as sheets, pillowcases, towels and cloths, must be changed after each service session.
All premises owners must apply for business permits and work approval letters through the CIMS management system. Customers must check in via the MySejahtera app or register manually.
TCM practitioners cannot have direct physical contact with the patient, such as massages or services that stimulate the production of bodily fluids, such as phlegm, mucus, blood, discharge and vomit. Wellness services and home visits are also not allowed.
Federation of Chinese Physicians and Medicine Dealers Associations of Malaysia president Boon Yip Heng said TCM practitioners could finally be spared the dilemma of helpless patients seeking help.
He called on all practitioners to observe the SOP strictly.
Calling the SOP “reasonable and comprehensive,” Federation of Chinese Physicians & Acupuncturists Association of Malaysia president Dr Ng Po Kok said the SOP is important for all TCM practitioners to follow and protect themselves while providing the service.
Malaysian Chinese Medical Society of Epidemic Control and Prevention president Dr Te Kian Keong, who is also Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman TCM department head, said they welcomed the move to fine-tune the SOP.
Malaysian Chinese Medical Association president Dr Yong Wee Seong said the latest SOP is better than the previous version, as it reduces the limitations on Chinese traditional medicine services and is more flexible.
“We need a comprehensive strategy to save lives and livelihoods. We should stop having the ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ sectors because even the essential sectors could become a hotspot for the virus to spread,” he said.
The TCM Rights Watch group said practitioners should not overlook the risks of physical medical consultation and acupuncture treatment owing to the high number of cases.
Chinese medicine practitioners should opt for online appointments, screen out high-risk patients first, and try avoiding medical procedures without any prior appointments.
The group also called on the government to comprehensively review the SOP that has been set for different phases of the NRP and draw up a proper set of once-and-for-all plans for all to move forward.