Dubai: Despite regulatory efforts by the health authorities, unlicensed traditional, complementary and alternative medicine (TCAM) practitioners in the UAE continue to attract residents, increasing public health risks.
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Dubai Healthcare Authority (DHA), TCAM includes ayurveda, homoeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Unani medicine and naturopathy among others. The authorities stipulate that no person or governmental agency can operate a TCAM facility or provide services without first obtaining a licence.
The MOH is facing issues regarding certain unlicensed TCAM practitioners offering medical massage, cupping, herbal products, and operating out of shops and homes.
Speaking on regulatory issues, Dr Ameen Hussain Al Amiri, assistant undersecretary for medical practice and licensing, MOH, told Gulf News, that though TCAM practitioners have to pass the ministry’s TCAM exam to practice in the UAE, TCAM services are being practised outside the purview of the health authorities’ regulations.
“We do not have the authority to control those who operate out of homes,” he said, urging residents to be vigilant. “Whenever the ministry has discovered illegal practice through inspections, we have notified the concerned municipality department for legal action. We urge residents not to seek treatment from unlicensed practitioners as they could risk their health.”
Gulf News also learnt that insufficient regulations were affecting licensed TCAM practitioners who believe the issue brings them — and their profession — ill repute and compromise patient safety.
To understand the severity of the issue, Gulf News spoke to a few.
Dr Maria Ridao Alonso, physician in Chinese medicine and medical director at the Dubai Herbal and Treatment Centre, said that the problem is that TCAM is practiced outside accredited and licensed clinics through homes and/or shops.
She said, “The quality of treatments and the qualifications of these practitioners might be doubtful. Health authorities should focus on patient awareness so patients can choose the right places for treatments and not compromise their safety.”
Dr Parviz Rashvand, naturopathic medicine practitioner, Synergy Integrated Medical Centre, Dubai, also highlighted the health risk. He said, “Any treatment requires medical knowledge, and lack of it is dangerous. Unauthorised practice of medicine could cause irreversible damage. The legal system should cover such damage due to illegal practice.”
To rectify the issue of illegal practitioners, Dr Rashvand suggested that health authorities study TCAM techniques and bring in experienced TCAM practitioners to access TCAM practitioners applying or renewing their licence.
Dr Akshay Batra, homoeopath and trichologist, and CEO of Dr. Batra’s Positive Health Clinic, Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), spoke of the need for licensing to ensure credibility of various medical streams. He said, “Standardising the licensing procedure is vital for health care, especially as the industry is moving towards a more integrative approach, offering ayurveda, homoeopathy and other therapies to mainstream treatment. Gaining credibility comes as a by-product of being standardised in procedures and protocols.”