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Moves to improve patient safety welcomed by Specialist Plastic Surgeons

Posted on Tuesday, 20 February 2018

President of the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), Dr Mark Magnusson has welcomed the announcement that a Committee from the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) will be examining the handling of complaints about cosmetic health service providers in NSW in a new inquiry.

“ASAPS has been petitioning Governments at all levels to tighten regulations to improve patient safety for some years, so it’s pleasing to see we are moving in the right direction.

“In a society like Australia where we have a high standard of living it often comes as a surprise to people when they learn how relaxed our laws are around who can pick up a scalpel and operate on another human being.

“The unprecedented expansion of the cosmetic industry over the past decade has seen the rise of providers who have moved into the market preying on the vulnerabilities of people seeking cosmetic procedures.  Some offer no-frills services, at what seems to be an affordable cost, but is possible because of serious cut-corners that may compromise patient safety and surgical outcomes,” Dr Magnusson said.

The Committee will be looking closely at the regulatory framework for complaints about cosmetic health services to identify any possible improvements to the system.  The inquiry will examine the powers and functions of the Commission to deal with complaints about cosmetic surgery and other services.  The Committee will also determine if the public is adequately aware that they can complain to the Commission about poor quality cosmetic health services.

“It often comes as a surprise to patients to learn that people using the title ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’ may have stopped their medical training after only their medical degree.

“While I can fully understand the cost being the primary decision driver for a person in many aspects of life, this should not be one of them.  Compromising on the quality of care due to cost comes with an increased potential for poor outcomes. We see patients left with disappointing results, sub-optimal scars, infections or in the worst case scenarios, life-threatening situations at the hands of providers who should have never picked up a scalpel in the first place.

“Even procedures that might seem commonplace, straightforward and simple have a risk and the potential for complications.  We have seen this play out with extreme consequences in the last 12 months in Sydney with the death of Ms Jean Huang.

“The injectable medications commonly considered for non-surgical rejuvenation are S4 medications, this means they are regulated and require a script and doctor oversight.  The procedures should be carried out in appropriate facilities with the necessary equipment to deal with unexpected but rarely severe complications and with practitioners that have the proper training.

“We should never lose sight of the fact that we are doctors first and this is medicine we are practising regardless of the reasons for interventions.

“There are numerous examples of this not being performed in line with these appropriate regulations.  Unfortunately, if no one checks and there is no enforcement of the regulations some unscrupulous operators are placing patients at risk.

“It is encouraging to see that the NSW Government has recognised this problem and is taking steps to improve patient safety.

“I would strongly encourage all ASAPS members to have their say by making a submission to the inquiry as this is our chance as the front line responsible for picking up the pieces of dodgy practitioners operating way outside their scope of practice to improve patient safety,” Dr Magnusson said.

Further information, including the inquiry’s terms of reference and how to make a submission, is on the Committee’s webpage at www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/healthcarecomplaints.  The closing date for submissions is Friday 6 April 2018.

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Media contact: Julia Power, National PR and Marketing Manager, 0414 276 990

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