Medical industry needs strict rules

A strict licensing system for cosmetic surgery practitioners would highly benefit the UAE

Illegal plastic surgery clinics in the UAE are putting at risk the country's goal to be a centre of medical tourism. Photo: Nir Elias / Reuters
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When unlicensed plastic surgeons practise in the UAE, they are not just putting their patients at risk, but also the country’s goal of becoming a regional hub for medical tourism. With this at stake, the government is entirely justified in seeking to upgrade the medical licensing system.

As The National reported yesterday, some illegal operators are exploiting the booming demand for cosmetic surgery, ranging from Botox injections through to invasive surgery. The risks of those who choose cheaper illegal clinics was demonstrated tragically in Thailand this weekend, when a British liposuction patient died after a botched cosmetic surgery procedure was carried out by an unlicensed plastic surgeon.

The UAE Ministry of Health has issued warnings that something similar could happen here, with supposed doctors operating from private homes and hotel rooms. In 2010, a Dubai doctor was jailed after passing himself off as a prominent US plastic surgeon and performing operations on his kitchen table. Several procedures were botched, devastating the lives of many patients.

Dubai is aiming to establish itself as a health care hub, with a goal of attracting 170,000 medical tourists in 2016. As The National reported on Friday, the emirate intends to offer tourist packages – including visas, flights, hospital stays and after-treatment care – starting from next year. Abu Dhabi harbours similar aspirations.

This plan cannot come to fruition if incompetent or unlicensed practitioners are able to work in the UAE, which is why the national accreditation system is important, creating a culture of safety in the industry and providing protection for patients.

The federal system, the implementation of which began earlier this month, will make it easier for legitimate health practitioners to work and will also make it more difficult for the illegal clinics to continue. This is in everyone’s interests.