This article was authored by Ng Angeline, a Ministry of Health pharmacist working with the Traditional & Complementary Medicine Division.
Many are rendered clueless when I introduce myself as a pharmacist in the Traditional and Complementary Medicine division (TCMD). “Is there such a division in MOH?” or “Do you do acupuncture or massage?” are common remarks received from my friends. Well, I can’t blame them because I, just like KK Lim, never knew such an institution existed until I received my new posting as a FRP. Like my friends, I was enveloped in a cloud of uncertainty to my new role and responsibility as a TCMD pharmacist.
The Traditional and Complementary Medicine Division was gazetted under the Research and Technical Support Programme in February 2004, one of the newest additions to the family tree of MOH. Our headquarters is located at Cenderasari Road, Kuala Lumpur and we aspire to be the centre of excellence for traditional and complementary health practices. There are 5 sections to the organization namely Policy & Development, Practice & Registration, Standard & Quality, Research & Development and lastly, the Inspectorate and Enforcement Section where I belong.
Basically, we are in charge of legislations, licensing and inspections of premises providing traditional and complementary medicine services across Malaysia. It is our responsibility to always ensure that all TCM practitioners are registered with the Ministry of Health and abide by the rules and regulations. There have been too many cases where traditional massage parlors or spa centers act as backdoors to an underground empire of prostitution and illegal activities hence, regulation and enforcement becomes necessary to ensure the provision of traditional and complementary healthcare is safe and effective for the benefit of the community. My advice is that if you are an adventurous person with a penchant for travelling while on the job, you may be well suited for a position here. What I love about the working environment in TCMD is that you’ll find a melting pot of pharmacists, doctors, and research officers working in harmonious synchrony.
Ladies and gentlemen, there’s no denying that traditional medicine continues to be patronized by the community to treat diseases and to maintain their health. About 70% of Malaysians have used traditional and complementary medicine in their lifetime, based on a nationwide survey by the Health Ministry in 2004. The government is striving to develop this field further through the identification of its health, economic and social benefits since our country is rich in natural resources that could potentially be developed into health products. We are talking about a billion dollar industry here!
The Ministry of Health is also supporting efforts to integrate TCM with modern medicine and with time, in concerto with our national healthcare system. This is evident through the establishment of TCM units in integrated hospitals namely below where Malay traditional massage, acupuncture and herbs as adjunct treatment for oncology patients are offered.
|Established Integrated Hospitals||Up and Coming|
|Kepala Batas Hospital||Pulau Pinang||Port Dickson Hospital||Seremban|
|Sultan Ismail Hospital||Johor Bahru||Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital||Alor Setar|
|Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital||Kuala Terengganu||Cameron Highlands Hospital||Pahang|
|Putrajaya Hospital||W.P Putrajaya||Raja Perempuan Zainab II Hospital||Kota Bahru, Kelantan|
|Duchess of Kent||Sabah|
|Sarawak General Hospital||Sarawak|
The best part is that no fees have been charged (yet) for traditional and complementary medicine and treatment offered in government hospitals! All treatments such as acupuncture and herbal medicine are based on CPGs developed by the ministry together with medical experts and traditional medical organizations and can only be issued to patients by certified practitioners and pharmacists.
Sitting warm in the Parliament is the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Bill that is being examined by the Attorney-General’s Chambers. The Bill, when passed, would mean that surveillance of TCM services in Malaysia will be fortified and only qualified TCM practitioners are eligible to register with MOH and be allowed to practice.
In essence, TCMD will keep working hard to plan and conduct inspectorate activities, researches, integrated hospital activities, upgrading our web portal , establish the online registration of practitioners as well as the development of programme curriculums at bachelor, diploma or certificate level to meet market demands in TCM treatment centers for qualified practitioners. We will pursue our commitments and duties entrusted to meet our aims, vision, mission and objectives of the division.
My dear friends, as you can see, the role and opportunities for Malaysian pharmacists like you and me are wide and endless. There will be unsuspecting challenges ahead but fear not. Embrace them with both hands for you shall be rewarded with experiences and knowledge that you can confess your own!
This is an opinion piece and therefore subjective by nature. The opinions expressed here are the opinions of the individual author and are not necessarily the views of the Young Pharmacist Chapter or the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society unless expressly described as such. The Chapter does not take responsibility for any errors or misleading statements.