Posted on: January 26, 2011 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

Biofeedback therapists serve some occupational health and employee wellness programmes to good effect, but are not yet recognised by SA law or medical aids.

SHEQafrica.com asked Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA) Registrar, Dr Louis Mullinder, about the status of unregistered health practitioners, specifically biofeedback and vibrational health therapy applications like radionic, Rife, Scio, and Diacom devices.

SHEQafrica.com; What is the legal status of biofeedback devices in South Africa?

Dr Mullinder: No biofeedback devices have yet been approved by the Department of Health for health treatment purposes, to my knowledge. The practice remains unregulated at this stage.

SHEQafrica.com; Is any legislation, or forthcoming legislation, relevant to biofeedback training or practice in South Africa?

Dr Mullinder; Not to my knowledge.

SHEQafrica.com; Who should take initiative to regulate biofeedback devices and relevant training and practice; should it be device importers, operators, HPCSA, AHPCSA, DOH, SAQA?

Dr Mullinder; This is a question for the Department of Health (DOH) to address, in my view, since there is a plethora of persons practising unregulated health services.

The AHPCSA, which has a mandate to protect public health, will have its views on the matter put to the Department of Health in a presentation by myself, on a date yet to be set, to the National Human Resources Committee, including National DOH and provincial health representatives.

Once DOH has decided in principle, other statutory bodies would become involved, according to relevant legislation, notably SAQA, Education, relevant ETQA (CHE or QCTO), and the relevant statutory council, either AHPCSA or Health Professions Council (HPCSA).

Rival biofeedback trainers

SHEQafrica.com; Who should take the initiative to unite rival practitioner representation bodies; EPASA, QBASA, BASA, THASA, etc?

Dr Mullinder; The associations themselves may decide to unite. If several associations are constituted at common law, then AHPCSA will regard each as a stakeholder. AHPCSA registers persons, not associations.

Alternative health professionalisation

SHEQafrica.com; Is the SAQA draft policy on professional bodies relevant to unregulated health modalities?

Dr Mullinder; In my understanding, the SAQA draft policy would be relevant. All professional bodies would be required to register with SAQA. The comment period has passed and further directives from SAQA are awaited.

Health device tests

SHEQafrica.com; Have South African academic or official tests been done on biofeedback devices?

Dr Mullinder; Not to my knowledge.

SHEQafrica.com; Would recognised overseas academic or official tests of such devices be accepted in SA?

Dr Mullinder; Overseas tests would be contributory factors, not necessarily definitive factors, depending on the quality of the research.

HPCSA could register practitioners

SHEQafrica.com; What development course is foreseen for biofeedback practice?

Dr Mulllinder; Practitioners may apply to AHPCSA to open a register or sub register, which will be considered, and an AHPCSA decision would be passed to the Department of Health for the Minister of Health’s consideration.

SHEQafrica.com; Which meetings of AHPC are open to interested parties?

Dr Mullinder; AHPCSA meetings are open to interested persons. Intention to attend meetings as observers should be sent to beverley@ahpcsa.co.za and an attendance fee must be paid.

*The Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA) Registrar is Dr Louis Mullinder. Contact AHPCSA at 61 Rose Str, Riviera, Pretoria, 0084, or mail Private Bag X4, Queenswood 0121, or call 012 329 40 01, fax 012 329 22 79, registrar@ahpcsa.co.za or Assistant Registrar Ms Molebogeng Sikoe, assist-registrar@ahpcsa.co.za

Practitioners keep low profile

A biofeedback representative had approached AHPCSA, and there had been correspondence about training standardisation, but the relevant bodies have declined to comment, following a ‘low profile’ approach of several years.

The impasse involves rival biofeedback device manufacturers, importers, sales agencies, membership bodies, and trainers. Most practitioners and end users are not concerned with the regulatory impasse, but health authorities are raising eyebrows.

Old versus new health technology

Allied Health Professions Council of SA (AHPCSA) is the statutory body that standardises training, and registers practitioners, in Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Homoeopathy, Naturopathy, Osteopathy, Phytotherapy, Therapeutic Aromatherapy, Therapeutic Massage Therapy, Therapeutic Reflexology and Unani-Tibb.

Each of these established modalities are served by a board, under the auspices of AHPCSA.

While the scientific and technology elements of biofeedback are much more advanced and targeted to particular organs and pathogens, the relevant training and self-organisation of biofeedback in South Africa is far behind the established ‘alternative’ modalities, reports SHEQafrica.com editor SHEQafrica.

At the medical authority, the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA), the former Medical and Dental Board, members have been heard to complain about a variety of untested devices entering the country, and operators with ‘crash course’ qualifications charging clients for services that amount to diagnosis, prescription, recepting, and cure.

The SA health services divide is not bridged by the large and veteran body of scientific research, and legislative acceptance, in most European and American countries.

Divide between official medicine and ‘alternative stress therapy” is also aggravated by increasing revelations of medical malpractice in legalised, orthodox medicine, medical uncertanties, and vested pharmaceutical interests. A growing number of informed patients are consulting biofeedback first, at their own expense, with chemical treatment as a second option.

Medical modality truce

The relationship between medicine, still riding the wave of the spectacular success of antibiotics and academic research, and the new modality with its holistic accuracy, is an uneasy truce.

Western medicine, academia, health authorities, and their pharmaceutical funders, dictate a variety of strictures on biofeedback practice. In Canada, for example, practitioners who are not medically qualified, may not talk to clients, thus removing patient knowledge, which is one of the advantages of unbiased diagnosis.

Biofeedback divisions

Biofeedback, or vibrational therapy, despite its unified stand against the perceived horrors of medicine and medical finance, is a divided tribe.

Developments in legislation, self-regulation, and training of practitioners of alternative health modalities, have been slow, bogged down in rivalries, and allowed to operate under the guise of alternative terminology, like ‘assessment’ instead of ‘diagnosis’, ‘therapy’ instead of ‘treatment’, and ‘wellness’ instead of ‘medicine’.

One result of the current impasse is that thousands of people now use biofeedback diagnosis at the hands of practitioners ranging from doctors, registered health practitioners of various kinds, unregistered practitioners, herbalists, to short course graduates and device owners themselves.

Automated health service Devices like Scio, Rife, and Diacom, are automated to the extent that diagnosis and assessment of future health problems could take minutes, usually outperforming a visit to a general medical practitioner.

Partial treatment could take an hour per month. By the same token, these devices do not completely replace professional medical skills, and should be used by trained people.

Just what the minimum biofeedback training should be, is subject to as much uncertainty as any other branch of medicine, which is inexact and subject to qualities like ‘experience’.

*Comment on this report in the COMMENT block below, or send your opinion, research, articles, or letters to SHEQafrica.com on editor@sheqafrica.com

IMAGE; Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA) is a statutory body that standardises training, and registers practitioners, in Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, Chinese Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Homoeopathy, Naturopathy, Osteopathy, Phytotherapy, Therapeutic Aromatherapy, Therapeutic Massage Therapy, Therapeutic Reflexology and Unani-Tibb.

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