The announcement yesterday that the Supreme Court has given up to 1,000 women the go-ahead for a class action against The Cosmetic Institute (TCI) is a great day for patient safety, says Dr Naveen Somia, President of the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS).
“ASAPS says ‘Cosmetic Sweatshop’ style set-ups that turn an invasive surgical procedure into a commodity have no place in cosmetic surgery as they risk patient safety. As doctors, patients come first and patient safety must be adhered to at every stage of the patient journey and at all costs.
“Compounding this issue is the loophole that allows doctors who are not registered by Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) as ‘Surgeons’ to overstate their qualifications and perform invasive cosmetic surgery on unsuspecting patients,” Dr Somia said.
As stated in the article yesterday, these doctors who were not AHPRA registered surgeons underwent ‘unaccredited private tutoring’ before they started performing surgical operations. To put things in perspective, a typical AHPRA registered Surgeon would have had years of Australian Medical Council (AMC) accredited surgical training, entitling them to use the letters FRACS after his or her name.
What this case highlighted is that the only training pathway to successfully perform invasive surgical procedures is that offered by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS). Other training programs have tried and failed to be accredited. This is because they do not meet the rigorous benchmarks and stringent controls required by the AMC.
“ASAPS believes, in the interests of patient safety, that the regulators need to enforce the scope of practice of medical practitioners and that all providers are required only to use the approved title the Medical Board of Australia has granted them. This means the term ‘cosmetic surgeon’ should be banned. The title serves no purpose other than to confuse and mislead patients.
Dr Somia said these doctors who were not registered with AHPRA as a surgeon, with no accredited surgical qualifications could conveniently hide behind social media platforms and called themselves ‘cosmetic surgeons’ and to reach vulnerable and unsuspecting patients.
“The aftermath, as we see from this class action, is a surge in near death complications by un-registered surgeons performing invasive cosmetic surgery on patients who were misled on the various advertising platforms about the real qualifications of these doctors,” Dr Somia said.
In recent times patient safety has been compromised with the death of Jean Huang in August 2017 at the hands of a foreign national who was not registered to practice medicine in Australia. This year there was the first case in Australia of a dermal filler causing blindness in a patient and the ABC’s Four Corners program that aired in August highlighted several instances of catastrophic outcomes for patients at the hands of cosmetic medicine providers who demonstrated an inability to play by the rules.
“In a classic case of ‘privatise the profits and socialise the losses’ public hospitals and Medicare are picking up the tab when elective cosmetic procedures go wrong at the hands of unqualified doctors who call themselves surgeons,” Dr Somia said.
With submissions now closed for the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) review of the Regulation of Australia’s health professions: keeping the National Law up to date and fit for purpose, Dr Somia said the Federal Government must close the loophole to improve patient safety and reduce the burden on Medicare.
“While we have seen some action in some states, namely NSW and Victoria with their own independent reviews and recommendations, where you live shouldn’t indicate how safe you are from unscrupulous providers who have demonstrated an inability to play by the rules. ASAPS applauds the NSW Minister of Health and the HCCC for initiating an inquiry and recommending steps to improve patient safety
“Had these doctors who worked for TCI been beholden to a scope of practice that kept their skills within a realm of safety aligned with their accredited training and had they only used their AHPRA approved title, we wouldn’t be in this situation.
“To protect patients and to maintain patients trust in the medical system, ASAPS recommends that doctors only use the approved title the Medical Board of Australia has granted them. This means the term ‘cosmetic surgeon’ should be banned.
“What patients need and what patients deserve is protection from people parading as surgeons and offering their unaccredited surgical skills along with the potential to cause disfigurement and death. This is a serious issue that requires urgent intervention,” Dr Somia said.
Media contact: Julia Power, National PR and Marketing Manager, 0414 276 990