Clinics used for sexual services 'tarnishing TCM image'

Some of the herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Some of the herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine.PHOTO: ST FILE

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinics that provide sexual services are a concern, and industry players and the authorities must take a stand against such unsavoury practices, said Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat.

"TCM practitioners who allow their clinics to be used in this manner are tarnishing the reputation of the TCM industry, and damaging the standing of other TCM practitioners and institutions," he wrote in a Facebook post yesterday. "The industry, professional board and Government must take a united stand against these negative practices."

Mr Chee was referring to an enforcement blitz conducted at TCM centres and massage parlours by the police last week, leading to the arrests of nine women.

Two TCM centres in Rangoon Road were raided last Wednesday. Instead of TCM practitioners, two female masseuses were found in each centre. Condoms were also found in the massage rooms. Three of the women were arrested after they were found to be offering sex.

Last December, The Straits Times visited seven clinics offering "TCM treatments" to check if their services were legitimate. Six of them, located in Chinatown, Tanjong Pagar, Jalan Besar and North Bridge Road, were registered to the same licensed TCM practitioner. At least five of the clinics were found to be, or admitted to, offering sexual services.

Mr Benjie Ng, executive director of Sian Chay Medical Institution, the largest network of non-profit TCM clinics here, said there are possible gaps in regulation that the authorities should look into.

"For general practitioners, there is licensing of both the doctor and the premises they operate from. But it seems only the TCM practitioners are approved by the TCM board and not the premises they are in," he said.

TCM physicians have to be registered with the Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners Board, a statutory board under the Ministry of Health (MOH). TCM clinics are not required to be registered with MOH.

The registered TCM practitioner must submit the English and Chinese name of the clinic to the board for approval first, before registering the company with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.

Janice Tai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2017, with the headline 'Clinics used for sexual services 'tarnishing TCM image''. Print Edition | Subscribe