Hospital embraces natural medicine

Published 12 October 2007

Natural and complementary medicine has stepped outside its ‘alternative’ tag with its move into a government hospital setting at Kyogle.

“This may be an Australian first,” said Hans Wohlmuth, head of the Department of Natural and Complementary Medicine at Southern Cross University.

“It is a significant step towards the incorporation of naturopathy into the spectrum of mainstream health care options.”

The new clinic, Massage and Medicinals, has just opened at Kyogle Memorial Health, leasing rooms adjacent to medical doctors and specialists, in the former maternity ward.

Clinic remedial massage therapist Albert Clark runs the practice with naturopath and pharmacist Jenny Keneally, a visiting lecturer in pharmacology at the University.

“We get doctors and physiotherapists referring patients to us quite a lot,” Albert said. “They have been very positive about our presence in the hospital and Chris Crawford, the CEO of North Coast Area Health Service even came to our opening and said it was good for consumers to have this kind of health choice available.”

Mr Wohlmuth said that according to the latest data, more than two thirds of adult Australians use some form of complementary medicine and about 45 percent visit complementary medicine practitioners.

“Australians spend as much on complementary medicine as they do on non-subsidised pharmaceutical over-the-counter medicines, and 70 percent of those who visit GPs also use complementary medicine,” he said.

“These figures clearly demonstrate that not only does the public want complementary medicine, but they want the best of what both conventional and complementary medicine has to offer.”

Mr Wohlmuth said that with its four-year Bachelor of Naturopathy degree, Southern Cross University has been the leader in providing high-quality, comprehensive education of naturopaths.

“Naturopaths and other well-trained natural health practitioners could make a much more substantial contribution to mainstream health care. They focus on prevention and health maintenance and can often provide treatment and lifestyle advice that can improve the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses,” he said.

“The health care sector will be forced to change because of the ageing population and the ageing work force. It is already facing workforce shortages and this will only get worse in the foreseeable future.

“At present, naturopaths, herbalists and other natural medicine practitioners are not being properly utilised. They could make a far more substantial contribution to the health care system and potentially save it significant amounts of money.

“Our governments need to act on the advice they have obtained from recent expert committees and reviews, and that is to implement proper regulation of natural health practitioners so they in turn can make a comprehensive and accessible contribution to the health care of Australians,” Mr Wohlmuth said.

Photo: Hans Wohlmuth, head of the Department of Natural and Complementary Medicine at Southern Cross University.

Media contact: Zoe Satherley Southern Cross University media officer, 6620 3144, 0439 132 095 or Hans Wohlmuth, 0437 674 638.