Naturopathic medicine to see changes

Naturopathic doctors practising in Saskatchewan may soon have limited prescribing rights, the ability to order basic laboratory tests, and increased regulatory control if Bill 172, The Naturopathic Medicine Act, is passed.
The bill, which will undergo its third reading this spring, would replace the Naturopathy Act established in 1954 and revised in 1978, thereby granting naturopathic practitioners the right to prescribe a limited variety of antibiotics, high dosage vitamins, bio-identical hormones, and certain botanical medicines, as well as the right to order blood tests, x-rays, and possibly ultra-sound tests.
Furthermore, the existing Saskatchewan Association of Naturopathic Practitioners (SANP) would continue to exist as The College of Naturopathic Doctors of Saskatchewan (CNDS), bringing the profession more in line with surgeons, physicians, pharmacists, dentists, and other health care practitioners.
Health Minister Dustin Duncan noted that he is pleased with the progress made with Bill 172. He added that although no date has been set for the third hearing of the bill, he expects that it will pass in the spring.
“Alternative medicine is an aspect of our health care system that is becoming more accepted. Alternative therapies compliment conventional practises very well; overall, there is more public interest in alternative medicine and the two systems are becoming increasingly more complimentary,” said Duncan.
He added that naturopathic doctors will be able to practise in Saskatchewan at a similar scope as naturopathic doctors in Alberta and British Columbia.
“We’re starting to see a growing number of naturopathic doctors practising in Saskatchewan, and the right to prescribe and order tests would provide naturopaths from across Canada with an incentive to practise in Saskatchewan,” said Duncan.
Dr. Julie Zepp Rutledge, president of the SANP, said the changes would be a welcome transition, allowing for improved oversight of alternative medicine in Saskatchewan and broader treatment capabilities for naturopathic doctors.
“There is a lot of confusion among people seeking alternative health care in Saskatchewan as to who is a registered Naturopathic Doctor. According to the Naturopathy Act, the title of ‘Naturopath’, ‘Doctor of Naturopathy’, ‘Naturopathic Practitioner’, etc. are protected titles that are reserved for members of the SANP. However, non-member practitioners that do not meet the requirements needed to join the SANP may refer to themselves as ‘Natural Healers’ or ‘Herbal Doctors’, for example,” said Rutledge. “It can be confusing for patients if they are unfamiliar with the current regulations, and they may not realize that there is a difference between a naturopathic doctor and a herbal doctor.”
According to the Naturopathy Act, in order to gain admission to the SANP, a person must produce evidence of having graduated from a college or school of naturopathy recognized by the SANP, pass other educational requirements set forth by the University of Saskatchewan, and comply with additional regulations set forth by the Naturopathy Act.
Bill 172 would also broaden the scope of protected titles to include: “Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine”, “Naturopathy”, “Natural Doctor”, “Doctor of Natural Medicine”, “Natural Medicine Doctor”, the abbreviation “ND” or any word, title or designation, abbreviated or otherwise, to imply that the person is a member of the CNDS.
“The changes would eliminate a lot of the confusion that patients have when seeking alternative health care. Patients will be more confident that the practitioners they are seeking will have the required skills and training to treat them effectively,” said Rutledge.
She added that the ability to prescribe and order tests will also benefit patients.
“Naturopathic doctors are trained to use pharmaceuticals and how to interpret lab test results and x-rays, but at the moment they’re not allowed to write prescriptions or order tests. As an example, a naturopathic doctor practising in a rural area could prescribe an antibiotic to a patient with a lung infection who may otherwise have to travel a considerable distance to visit a medical doctor,” said Rutledge.
Among the most important changes to the act, added minister Duncan, are the rules regarding title protection.
“It is important for the public to know that the treatment that they are receiving is safe and effective. In the past we have received concerns regarding individuals who were not members of the SANP that were conducting questionable practises under the title of naturopath. The new regulations will clarify who is a regulated naturopathic doctor and will give the CNDS the power to issue stop orders for said individuals,” said Duncan.

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