Incredibly, in the midst of this health industry crisis, AHPRA is also proposing to weaken its regulations regarding testimonials. While it makes an exception for cosmetic surgery, this will be open season for people wanting to advertise pain clinics, substandard skin check clinics, and hundreds of other procedures. There will be no surprise when “Skin Cancer Clinics” will have a cosmetic procedure room at the back of the office.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration and the AMA both oppose testimonials in medicine. The TGA recently said anti-witness laws should be strengthened. Why, then, are regulators not working together? The system is broken. The current ban on testimonials for medical services should be maintained. Weakening it will only put the community at greater risk.
Possible solutions include restricting the scope of practice of general AHPRA registrants, such as general practitioners, so that surgery is only permitted for physicians who have specialized surgical training. Specialists in fields such as dermatology might have a specific scope for surgical procedures relevant to that field. We recognize that specialist general practitioners play a valuable role in procedural work and rural and regional settings, and physicians registered in a specialty with CMA-accredited surgical training would be permitted to perform surgery.
But those who perform surgery without recognized surgical qualifications should be disbarred. And their interventions must be considered assaults.
Members of our society are all specialist plastic surgeons with eight years of additional surgical training. We believe this is what Australians would expect – that only qualified surgeons are allowed to perform surgery, except in limited and specified circumstances. If it requires a change in the law, change the law.
Our society calls on the Federal Minister of Health, Government and Parliament to work with the necessary parties to close the gap between the excellent standards of the Australian Medical Council and AHPRA’s ability to ensure Australians can s expect care that meets these standards. Currently, AHPRA seems unable or unwilling to meet this challenge, and the community is paying the price.
Associate Professor Nicola Dean is President of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons.