IT IS unanimous: All the allied health professionals (AHP) my paper spoke to hailed a proposed Bill as an encouraging step towards accrediting their profession.
Last week, the Ministry of Health announced plans to introduce a new law to regulate this group of health-care workers, who are currently not under any legislation. The proposed Allied Health Professions Bill aims to strengthen the professional competency of AHPs, beginning with physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists. If passed, the Bill is expected to come into effect in 2012.
Practitioners say that the regulation would help improve the overall standard and credibility of AHPs and reduce chances of professional misrepresentation to the public.
Mr Tan Hai Yang, senior manager of the rehabilitation department at Alexandra Hospital, calls the Bill a “milestone for the therapy professions”. The public can then be assured that the professionals they consult are qualified and will provide the best and safest treatment, he said.
Ms Melissa Chua, head of the speech-therapy department of the Singapore General Hospital, said the Bill is timely in the wake of rising AHP numbers. She said: “This will enhance the good standing of my profession and motivate us to keep high standards.”
Ms Kung Beng Keng, a senior physiotherapist at St Luke’s Hospital, said: “I can then say to clients that my profession is regulated, whereas, now, anyone can claim to be a physiotherapist.”
Associations for the three types of AHPs that will be the first to come under the the proposed regulation applauded the Health Ministry’s move. While there are an estimated 600 to 700 physiotherapists and 400 to 500 occupational therapists here, only 550 physiotherapists and 298 occupational therapists are registered with their professional associations.
Only the Speech-Language and Hearing Association of Singapore enjoys close to full membership from about 160 speech therapists here.
As members of the associations, professionals get access to courses that promote professional development, as well as discounts for seminars.
Ms Florence Cheong, president of the Singapore Association of Occupational Therapists, said it would be difficult to convince all practitioners to register with associations as membership is not compulsory.
With the Bill, there is “a need for registered professionals to show evidence of continuous education” as a requirement for their practice certificates, said Ms Cheong.