A provincial move to regulate naturopaths is a positive step that will assure patients they’re receiving reputable advice from a reputable practitioner, says a local naturopath.
The province announced this week that naturopaths must now meet standards and requirements as set by the newly-established College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta (CNAD).
“With a regulated naturopathic doctor, [patients]should be confident that the recommendations and the medical background is accurate and effective,” said Dr. David Richmond, a naturopath at the St. Albert Naturopathic Clinic who has been practicing for 11 years.
Naturopathy uses diet, lifestyle intervention, nutritional supplementation, physical medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat a variety of chronic and acute conditions.
Under the new regulation, practitioners are permitted to perform injections, minor surgeries like wart removal, ear examinations and – with further training – acupuncture, chiropractics and intravenous administration of ozone, chelation therapy and supplemental vitamins and minerals.
Naturopaths are restricted from prescribing drugs, administering intravenous nutrition and ordering X-rays and ultrasounds.
Richmond expects the St. Albert clinic, which services much of northern Alberta, to see an increase in patients as a result of the regulation.
In the last decade, naturopathy use has surged along with the number of practitioners, he said, adding that he became the 30th naturopath in Alberta 11 years ago. Now there are 144.
This growing interest warranted regulation to ensure Albertans receive quality care, said Health and Wellness Minister Fred Horne.
“As elected members and as government, we’re not here to endorse any particular philosophy or form of treatment. Our job is to make sure the public is adequately protected,” he said.
Standards and requirements
The college will have the ability to set entrance and continuing competency requirements for naturopathic doctors, control the use of professional titles, set standards for professional practice and establish disciplinary processes for the profession, Horne said.
The minimum educational requirements to become a certified and accredited naturopath include three years of pre-medical schooling coupled with a four-year professional program at an approved naturopathic college or university.
There are 33 health professions with associations in Alberta. Naturopathy becomes the 26th to become self-regulated under the Health Professions Act. The move comes after 14 years of work by both the government and the Alberta Association of Naturopathic Practitioners.
“Albertans can have confidence when they reach out to one of 144 members of the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta that they have a naturopathic doctor who meets stringent competency and practice requirements,” said the college’s president Allissa Gaul.
Patients pay out-of-pocket for naturopathy services since they are not covered by the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan. Some services are, however, covered by supplemental insurance plans.
Alberta joins British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia in regulating naturopathy. This regulation enables patients to claim naturopathy as a medical expense on their income tax returns.