Disposable needles to be used for acupuncture
Hospitals are expected to use disposable needles for acupuncture before the end of this year.
The Shanghai Health Bureau is drafting the regulation and discussing the relative cost issues.
Medical experts also warned residents about needles used in clinics or beauty parlors that operate without a medical permit. Such places are popular for providing weight loss services through acupuncture.
Acupuncture requires needles to penetrate the skin. If they are not properly disinfected, the devices can spread diseases like hepatitis B and HIV.
"Most hospitals use needles repeatedly while they do not enforce strict disinfection procedures like putting the devices in boiled water," said Ji Weiping, director of the health bureau's traditional Chinese medicine department. "To enhance safety and prevent infection, we will promote disposable needles."
The bureau is discussing with the local Price Bureau and Medical Insurance Bureau about the cost and payment plan for the needles.
Ji said one acupuncture treatment session requires 15 needles, and they are considering to charge patients about 3 yuan (36 US cents) for those disposable needles per session.
"Though it is not expensive, we still should hold a hearing and discuss whether the expense is shared by medical insurance companies or passed on completely to patients."
If the regulation is passed, all state-owned and private hospitals as well as licensed clinics must follow it.
Officials, however, are worried about the difficulty in detecting and regulating beauty parlors or unqualified clinics, which give acupuncture without permit. They asked people to be cautious.