By Lee Hui Chieh
ABOUT 200 patients have flocked to a new traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) centre at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) since Sunday - ahead of its official opening yesterday.
The draw: five master TCM physicians from Shanghai, regarded as "national treasures" in China, who are here as visiting consultants.
China has only about 200 of these masters, whose status is conferred by the government.
The five master physicians return home today but will, from February, take turns to visit Bao Zhong Tang TCM Centre to treat patients.
Two other physicians from Shanghai will man the centre full time, helped by four part-time local physicians.
Each consultation costs between $60 and $100.
The $2.8 million centre is a private company owned by SingHealth, which runs SGH, and Shanghai Hospital Development Centre, which runs 23 public hospitals in Shanghai, including four top TCM hospitals.
SGH will not refer its patients to the centre for treatment, but will collaborate with the centre in research.
The centre's official opening was graced by Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan; China's former deputy minister for health, Madam She Jing; and the former Chinese ambassador to Singapore, Madam Chen Baoliu.
Mr Khaw noted that TCM here has progressed in terms of training and availability of services.
In 2005, a double degree in biological sciences and TCM was started by Nanyang Technological University, in collaboration with Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.
TCM clinics have also opened in many hospitals here.
The next step, Mr Khaw said, is to do more research on the complementary use of Western medicine and TCM to treat conditions such as diabetes and cancer.
He said he had been told, for example, that certain herbs can lower blood sugar levels in diabetics, an effect which could be enhanced if used with Western drugs.
This called for deeper research and clinical trials, because without the necessary scientific data, TCM therapies, like Western treatments, cannot be used as standard treatment.
Mr Khaw said: "We hope to find out how best to combine both Western drugs and herbal remedies to bring about better outcomes for our patients. That is our objective, and I hope we will succeed."