French to get hospital for Chinese medicine

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 20 May 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1285

A hospital dedicated to traditional Chinese medicine will open in Paris next year under the joint sponsorship of the Chinese and French Ministries of Health. The pilot project, called European Hospital Number One, will be supported by the European Community, Unesco, and the French government in collaboration with the World Health Organisation.

The hospital will have 20 beds and is expected to be a centre of treatment, teaching, and evaluation in the five main domains of traditional Chinese medicine: acupuncture; massage; a pharmacopoeia based on plants and products of mineral and animal origin; qi gong, an approach relying on movements, breathing techniques, and concentration to promote physical wellbeing; and dietetics.

The project was suggested by Dr Denis Colin, a medical doctor and professor of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine in Paris and viewed favourably by the French health ministry. Dr Shen Yu Long, from the traditional medicine directorate of the Chinese health ministry, has agreed to help with the project.

Traditional Chinese medicine is recognised as a legitimate part of medical practice by the French Medical Association and is officially taught in several medical faculties. Patients are reimbursed for it by the Social Security's health insurance branch. In addition, it is seen as a possible way to reduce spiralling medical costs: the costs of traditional Chinese medicine are largely limited to fees paid to practitioners and eventual (and infrequent) admission to hospital. Medication, when prescribed, is usually inexpensive.

Oriental medical tradition was introduced into France by Jesuit missionaries during the 17th century and continued through the colonial period. Acupuncture is practised regularly or occasionally by about 15000 French physicians and is frequently requested by patients. (Homoeopathic medicine, including the use of “high dilution” drugs, is also widely practised in France.)

The Chinese Ministry of Health has agreed to cooperate by providing specialists to work at the hospital. Although foreign medical diplomas are not systematically recognised, foreign specialists can participate in clinical demonstrations and teaching.

Patients arriving at the hospital will be met by a nurse, who will explain the basic principles of traditional medicine. They will then see a doctor trained in traditional Chinese medicine, who will establish a diagnosis and propose a therapeutic programme in one or more of the hospital's five departments, each corresponding to one of the domains of traditional medicine. A record established for each patient will serve to evaluate the diagnosis and the therapeutic efficacy of a given treatment.—ALEXANDER DOROZYNSKI, medical journalist, Paris

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