Introduction

The Traditional and Complementary Medicine Act 2013 ("Act") was gazetted on 8 February 2013 and is likely to come into force latest by the middle of 2016. The Traditional and Complementary Medicine Council ("Council") will be established to oversee the operation of the Act.

Recognised Practice Areas

The Council will identify the practice areas of traditional and complementary medicine that are to be undertaken in Malaysia and make a recommendation to the Minister of Health ("Minister") for such practice areas to be prescribed as recognised practice areas. Practising in unrecognised practice areas is prohibited by the Act, a breach of which may lead to a fine of up to RM30,000.00 and/or a prison term of up to two years.

Registration of Practitioners

Under the Act, any person intending to practise traditional and complementary medicine in any recognised practice area must apply to the Council to be provisionally registered as a practitioner, unless exempted by the Council. Provisionally registered practitioners must undergo at least a year of residency before they may apply to be registered with the Council.

The Act is silent as to its transitional period but the Health Deputy Director-General (Medical) has reportedly indicated that the practitioners would be given up to two years to comply with the registration requirements under the Act.

Obligations and Duties of Registered Practitioners

The Act imposes a number of obligations on registered practitioners in connection with their provision of traditional and complementary medicine services. For example, a registered practitioner is under a duty to refer his patient to a medical or dental practitioner if the patient is experiencing an acute medical emergency or if the ailment or condition of the patient is beyond the skill, competency or expertise of the registered practitioner.

Impact on Healthcare Companies

Healthcare companies should note that the Act also contains provisions on patient's rights, such as the right to be properly notified and informed of any harmful, unsafe or other effects which the traditional and complementary medicine services provided may produce prior to being provided such services.

Further, the Act sets out implied terms or guarantees that apply where traditional and complementary medicine services are provided by a registered practitioner or any person engaging or employing the practitioner to a patient. In the event of any non-compliance with the implied terms or guarantees, the patient may choose to cancel the contract without any liability; obtain compensation for any loss or damage suffered; or obtain a refund of the money paid. These provisions will have effect notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any agreement between the patient and the registered practitioner or any person engaging or employing the practitioner.

Conclusion

Healthcare companies involved in the practice of traditional and complementary medicine will be most affected by the provisions on patient's rights because the contract of service entered into between the patient and the practitioner or the healthcare company will be governed by the implied terms or guarantees mentioned above. More importantly, a healthcare company may be jointly liable for any non-compliance with the provisions on patient's rights by the practitioner employed by the company. Therefore, healthcare companies should make necessary arrangements with their practitioners and take reasonable measures to ensure compliance with the Act in order to avoid penalties.