The Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS) is reminding patients of the need to do their homework and ensure that their treating medical practitioner is registered before agreeing to undergo any medical procedure.
The warning comes after the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) successfully prosecuted and fined ($16,500) a former medical practitioner in Victoria for claiming a member of his staff was a registered health practitioner when they were not and performing invasive cosmetic procedures.
Mr Roger Bernard, a former general medical practitioner, pleaded guilty and was convicted in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria at Sunshine of seven charges of recklessly claiming that Ms Phoebe Pacheco was a registered health practitioner when she was not.
Mr Bernard also pleaded guilty to an additional charge of recklessly using a title in circumstances which indicated that Ms Pacheco was registered as a medical practitioner. Ms Pacheco was not and never has been registered with the Medical Board of Australia.
The charges were brought by AHPRA who, as part of its investigation, found Ms Pacheco saw patients at a medical clinic run by Mr Bernard in Werribee between 16 June and 3 November 2016. Patients at the clinic included those seeking medical treatment, cosmetic treatment and/or a mix of both medical and cosmetic consultations.
Patients are being misled
President of ASAPS, Dr Naveen Somia said many people are misled into believing that cosmetic procedures are risk-free and therefore they require little skill or training. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Lasers can burn, injectable treatments and dermal fillers can cause skin necrosis, infections and even blindness in the worst case scenario.
Dr Somia said patients trust their treating medical practitioners and have a right to expect safe care.
It is a serious matter if anyone who is not a registered health practitioner claims to be a registered health practitioner or uses titles that are protected under the National Law (e.g. medical practitioner). Both are offences and may be prosecuted by AHPRA.
The National Law
The National Law protects the public by ensuring that only registered health practitioners who are suitably trained and qualified are able to use protected titles. The law allows for penalties to be issued by the court for using protected titles or holding out as a registered practitioner when not entitled to. The maximum penalty which a court may impose per charge is $30,000 (in the case of an individual) or $60,000 (in the case of a body corporate).
By logging onto the AHPRA website at ahpra.gov.au, patients can quickly and easily check by looking up the name of the medical practitioner to see if they are registered, and what they are accredited to practice. For example, a Specialist Plastic Surgeon has Specialist registration:
Dr Somia said, when it comes to elective procedures, make sure you check every avenue available to you to ensure you don’t end up regretting your decision. Watch our short video to find out how you can check out the registration of your treating medical practitioner.