New TCM clinic that's not just for Chinese patients

Singa Charity Medical coordinator and co-founder Tea Poh Choo (at far left) and TCM physician Jiang Xinlin (centre). The clinic in Veerasamy Road offers free consultations to patients, with a focus on those with cancer or metabolic diseases such as h
Singa Charity Medical coordinator and co-founder Tea Poh Choo (at far left) and TCM physician Jiang Xinlin (centre). The clinic in Veerasamy Road offers free consultations to patients, with a focus on those with cancer or metabolic diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Singa Charity Medical in Little India wants to provide affordable care for more non-Chinese

A new traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinic wants to offer affordable treatment to more non-Chinese patients.

Located on the second floor of a Housing Board block in Veerasamy Road, near Little India, Singa Charity Medical offers free consultations to patients, focusing on those with cancer or metabolic diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

It started operations about two weeks ago and sees up to 35 patients in a day, on an appointment basis.

The clinic's coordinator, Ms Tea Poh Choo, said she hopes that, by setting up the clinic near Little India, more non-Chinese patients - who now make up about 30 per cent of its patients - can know more about TCM.

NOT LIKE THE REST

This is different from other charity clinics, which accept patients with ailments such as the flu. This works more like a specialist clinic.

TCM PHYSICIAN JIANG XINLIN, who works at Singa Charity Medical

Ms Tea used to be a chief financial officer in a multinational firm but now manages the clinic full time.

While consultation at the clinic is free, a day's medication costs $3 and acupuncture costs $5. Those from low-income families can apply for a waiver for the cost of medication.

"We are also talking to Jamiyah Singapore to set up a TCM clinic in Geylang," said Ms Tea, who is one of 15 professionals who started the clinic.

The founders, who include doctors, engineers and lawyers, now foot the clinic's operation bills, projected at about $800,000 a year. They plan to apply for charity status eventually.

The clinic's two physicians are graduates from Nanyang Technological University's double degree programme in TCM and biomedical sciences.

Ms Tea said: "To attend to non-Chinese patients, the doctors must be able to speak English. Professors and consultants are important as well, because of their vast experience."

From next month, the clinic will have up to five experienced TCM practitioners who will be volunteering their time and services.

One of them is senior consultant Jia Hong Lu, a pain management specialist at a clinic in Orchard Road. He visits the Singa Charity Medical clinic at Block 637, Veerasamy Road, every Friday for a few hours.

"Hearing that the new clinic aims to serve low-income patients, I felt it was a way to give back to society," said Professor Jia.

At the private clinic where he works, consultation and medication can easily add up to over $100, and there were some patients who could not afford to pay for sessions with him, he added.

He said: "This clinic is an alternative path for such patients."

TCM physician Jiang Xinlin, who works at Singa Charity Medical, said: "This is different from other charity clinics, which accept patients with ailments such as the flu. This works more like a specialist clinic."

For instance, she said, TCM can help alleviate some of the side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea and a loss of appetite.

"With chemotherapy being costly, low-income patients can turn to TCM treatment to help alleviate side effects," she added.

She said she hopes the new clinic can help by providing specialised treatment that is inexpensive.

"Chinese patients may be more familiar with TCM, but non-Chinese patients visit us for acupuncture treatment too. With this location close to Little India, we hope word will spread to the residents nearby."

Mr Aaron Mahendra Rajah, an events executive from the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association, said: "I think the clinic is an interesting addition to the community. We will be inviting the staff to our monthly business meet-ups, which they are keen to join as well."

Mr Er Swee Pin, 68, who runs a small business, has visited the clinic thrice, for headaches and high blood pressure medication.

Visiting a TCM clinic for acupuncture and medicine would usually cost about $60, he said, but at the new clinic, he pays about $15.

"It's long-term care, so it could amount to quite a lot," he said. "Coming here helps me to save money."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2015, with the headline 'New TCM clinic that's not just for Chinese patients'. Print Edition | Subscribe