The Ontario government is backing away from a controversial plan to deregulate acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine that critics say would have jeopardized patient safety.
Health Minister Christine Elliott announced the change on Monday as several dozen opponents of the move demonstrated outside the legislature over concerns raised since deregulation was included in unrelated rights legislation. construction workers last week.
While Elliott accused the existing registration system of being “unfair” and of having “prevented people who speak primarily Cantonese or Mandarin from practicing traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture in Ontario,” the college regulation painted a different picture.
“Since 2013, no candidate has been denied registration due to lack of language proficiency,” said Ann Zeng, Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Ontario acupuncturists.
“Of the more than 2,700 college members, more than 100 said they were not fluent in English or French.”
Elliott said the government is now working with the college – which was created by a previous Liberal government through a 2006 law – to offer matriculation exams in Cantonese and Mandarin.
The plans to close the college are abandoned.
Opposition parties have used the words “reckless” and “irresponsible” to describe the deregulation plan, which Government House Leader Paul Calandra says was hatched because of a “disconnect” between potential practitioners and the college.
“The number one complaint we hear is that people couldn’t get into the practice of traditional Chinese medicine,” he added, citing the concerns of Chinese Canadians in his riding of Markham-Stouffville and four others in the GTA.
Critics questioned why the Progressive Conservative government felt it was necessary to scrap regulation of traditional Chinese medicine instead of finding another way to approve more practitioners. They also said it was obvious from the backlash that the government had not consulted enough on its plan.
“The reasons given by Doug Ford never made any sense,” said Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca. “What we still don’t know is who Doug Ford was actually looking to benefit.”
NDP MP France Gelinas, her party’s health critic, said Calandra may have provided a clue by naming five Greater Toronto ridings held by the Progressive Conservatives.
“We are close to an election,” she noted of the June 2 provincial vote.
The removed amendments would have repealed the Chinese Medicine Act of 2006 and placed practitioners under the oversight of Ontario’s Health Care and Support Providers Authority at a time when the regulatory college is conducting 70 investigations into its members.
Deregulation would have put an end to these investigations, as well as eight ongoing disciplinary hearings.
To date, the College has rendered 38 disciplinary decisions. Punishments range from issues such as sexual assault to providing patients with false hope about treatments. Licenses have been suspended in some cases and remedial training ordered in others.
There were also fears that deregulation could cause insurance companies to stop providing coverage for certain types of traditional Chinese medicine.
“Cutting out of college is bad for patients and bad for practitioners,” said Green leader Mike Schreiner.
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