Federal Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman has expressed concerns about a plan to close a Traditional Chinese Medicine course at the University of Technology, Sydney by 2021.
In a letter to Professor Dianne Jolley, Dean of Science at UTS, she said she was following up on concerns by Winmalee Chinese medicine practitioner Lisa Holden who "along with other practitioners in the Blue Mountains are very concerned about the closure" of the Bachelor of Health Science (Traditional Chinese Medicine).
Ms Holden is a graduate of the course and said "it has provided me with a career I love". Chinese medicine, she said, helped improve her son's lung function while he struggled with cystic fibrosis.
"One needs to be fully qualified to have a deeper understanding of Chinese medicine and achieve better outcomes for patients."
The course has been running for 25 years, currently has 205 enrolled students, has international collaborations and "graduated more practitioners than the other institutions in NSW combined," she added.
Ms Holden said the four-year course is accredited by the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia under the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
Ms Templeman said she was concerned if enough qualified practitioners are no longer graduating, NSW will be dominated by unqualified people providing these services.
"This will be detrimental to health care in NSW. Chinese medicine has a lot to offer chronic disease management in Australia and as a profession, is only just starting on a journey to demonstrate it. Closing the UTS would be an impediment to that."
Ms Templeman said federal government policy has nought to do with the decision that UTS, as with every other university, is at liberty to decide what courses they offer.
"On behalf of my constituent and as a consumer of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicines I ask that you and UTS reconsider the decision to close the program," she wrote in the letter.
A UTS spokesman said a decision was made "to phase out the program" because of its "poor financial viability, research productivity, and strategic fit within the Faculty of Science".
"Faculty and university management acknowledge that this is an extremely difficult decision to make, and they wish that the program - which UTS has been proud to offer for 25 years - could continue. However, it is currently generating deficits in the vicinity of $1.5-$2 million per year, which is unsustainable for a publicly-funded institution like UTS. Further, in spite of some positive increases in research performance by TCM staff, this continues to be inconsistent with that expected of a research intensive environment," the UTS spokesman added.
Some students would be able to finish at Western Sydney University which the spokesman said "has the same level of accreditation/regulation as far as I am aware".
Ms Holden said the courses are not run in parallel, so the subjects would be different even though both lead to registration.
As of September 25, 9,272 had signed a petition on change.org to save the course.
"In June 2018, there were 4882 Chinese medicine practitioners in Australia with 1992 of those in NSW so a petition with over 9000 signatures is not insignificant," Ms Holden said.