HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - According to a 2006 study, 16 percent of Hawaii residents use acupuncture on a regular basis. And those who practice acupuncture on those patients say a bill in the state senate would water down the requirements to perform it safely.
They say the ancient form of Chinese medicine is much more than just sticking needles into someone.
"We have very strict standards here, and one of the concerns that we have is that the current senate bill would reduce the standards and put the public in danger," said Dr. Craig Twentyman of the Acupuncture Association, who is also a licensed acupuncturist.
Senate Bill 1507 would let the Hawaii Board of Medical Examiners take over the regulation of acupuncture. It also would take away the authority of the current Board of Acupuncture to regulate the practice when it is performed by physicians, osteopathic physicians, and physicians' assistants. Acupuncturists say the result of that will be lower standards.
Right now, if you want to become a licensed acupuncturist in Hawaii, you have to undergo more than 3,200 hours of training in a four-year program. That's even if you're already a medical doctor.
There are more than 260 licensed practitioners here, or one acupuncturist for every ten medical doctors in the state.
Some states require as little as 300 hours of training for a medical physician to also get a license to perform acupuncture.
"Chinese medicine is a very complex medicine," said Jayne Tsuchiyama, an acupuncturist at the Cancer Center at the Queen's Medical Center. "It's not something that you learn by videotape or in 300 short hours."
"You might know how to put needles in safely, but do you know where, how long, what direction, what depth, and for what purpose and for what reason?" said Joni Kroll of Acuplan Hawaii. "That requires the full training."
The Institute of Clinical Acupuncture at the Chinese Cultural Plaza currently has three medical doctors taking the full four-year program. "They are second year students, they have been through the first year already," said institute president Wai Hoa Low. "Right now if the bill passes, they will drop out. They'll say, 'Why should I be in school because they changed the law?'"
Several acupuncturists and students gathered at the institute Thursday night to discuss the bill. They plan to be out in force to testify against it when the state Senate Health Committee takes it up Friday at 4 p.m. in conference room 229 at the State Capitol.