Develop hub to integrate Western medicine, TCM

With Dr Tu Youyou winning the Nobel Prize in medicine, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) will now be further recognised on the global stage of medicine and healthcare ("Turning point for traditional Chinese medicine"; Sunday, and "3 scientists share Nobel Prize in medicine"; Oct 6).

Singapore has had many TCM practitioners practising at a rudimentary level for a long time, although this sector has become more developed in the past decade or so.

The Government has been regulating this sector, too, by requiring clinics and their medicine to be registered. Records and software systems were also developed to help these clinics.

The Nanyang Technological University also started a double-degree programme in biomedical sciences and TCM, with student attachments in China and internships at leading private TCM clinics.

These are steps in the right direction.

With our relatively long adoption of TCM and with both English and Chinese as our most commonly used languages, we should set out to become the world's leading hub in integrating the best of TCM and Western medicine.

The Government has to identify all constituents and important pieces, develop road maps and sieve out the non-conforming practitioners for development, in order to raise overall standards.

At the ground level, grants and subsidies will be essential to entice both practitioners and patients.

This is more so when we consider that elderly and less well-off citizens are increasingly in need of such integrated treatments as well as TCM's preventive medicine, which will alleviate Singapore's overall and long-term healthcare costs.

While these population segments will benefit most from combined Western medicine and TCM regimes, they tend to shy away from well-equipped TCM clinics mainly because of high and non-subsidised costs.

Unlike Western medicine, TCM treatments and drugs do not get government subsidies or support from insurance companies ("Let PG card be used for TCM treatments" by Mr Geoffrey Kung; last Saturday).

Any subsidies or grants for the elderly should include all seniors aged 50 and above, to encourage the use of TCM preventive treatments.

More people of all races, especially in the region, are seeking TCM help as well.

There are opportunities to shape our global market leadership and to institutionalise more preventive healthcare support through the integration of TCM into our current system.

Ng Boon Khee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2015, with the headline 'Develop hub to integrate Western medicine, TCM'. Print Edition | Subscribe