Can masseurs issue MCs?

PHOTO: Can masseurs issue MCs?

JOHOR BARU - A medical certificate (MC) from a massage or reflexology practitioner, anyone?

This is the worry of the Federation of Chinese Physicians and Medical Dealers Associations after Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai announced the proposed Traditional and Complimentary Medicine (TCM) Bill, which will allow traditional medicine practitioners to issue sick leave certificates to patients.

The federation's head of TCM Tan Kee Huat questioned if the MCs would be valid in court in case they were challenged or not recognised by employers or insurance companies.

He said Chinese physicians, traditional healers, acupuncturists, masseurs and even those engaged in foot reflexology were issued with an annual practising certificate to allow them to carry out their work.

"Since all of them are recognised by the ministry, there must be a guideline as to who is qualified to diagnose and treat patients, and issue them MCs.

"My advice is that only Chinese physicians who are professionally trained are eligible to issue MCs.

"Even then, some qualified Chinese physicians also provide massage and reflexology service. This is a grey area the ministry needs to look into.

"Otherwise, a person who seeks a massage service to relieve his muscle ache may insist on an MC or threaten not to return again.

"When this occurs, abuse is certainly inevitable," he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

It was reported that the bill was expected to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat soon and the enforcement of the bill was expected to ease the burden of those who rely on TCM as the cost would then be borne by insurance companies.

Tan said MCs were issued for sickness and accidents.

In the event of those who met with an accident, had bone fractures and needed a long medical leave for recuperation, he said patients were likely to claim insurance too for loss of income.

Tan said the problem arose as to what kind of sickness and accidents a Chinese physician was allowed to diagnose, treat and issue an MC for.

"The length of MC is another matter. As a normal illness usually needs one or two days of leave, a patient with bone and joint problems as a result of an accident may need several weeks' or months' of medical leave.

"These patients not only need an MC for their insurance claims, they also need to produce medical evidence such as X-ray reports by certified experts to substantiate their claims.

"I hope there are sufficient guidelines on these so as to avoid unnecessary abuse by both patients and Chinese physicians," he added.

Tan, nevertheless, welcomed the ministry's move to allow Chinese physicians to issue MCs, as this was a sincere gesture by the ministry in recognising Chinese medicine in the country.

There are about 3,000 registered Chinese physicians and 5,000 registered traditional healers in the country.