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Health, Beauty & Fashion

'Experimental' clinics under greater scrutiny

New rules require those offering treatments such as melting of fat cells to renew licences annually, instead of every 2 years.
January 2, 2013
By: Melissa Pang
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'Experimental' clinics under greater scrutiny

CLINICS offering experimental cosmetic procedures - such as those designed to melt patients' fat cells - will soon need to get their licences renewed more frequently.

A new framework is being introduced that will require them to do so annually, instead of every two years.

But dental and general practice clinics will be given more leeway, and need a new licence only every five years.

Doctors said the system could improve patient safety and reduce overall health-care costs.

The framework - which is designed to slash red tape and allow certain clinics to be monitored more closely - also includes a demerit point system to identify areas where they are not complying with the rules.

Health-care institutions will be categorised according to their levels of risk.

This is determined by the type of services they provide and how well they comply with the terms of their licences, said the Ministry of Health.

In a circular, it stated that clinics offering "List B" aesthetic procedures and health-care institutions with poor compliance records will be categorised as "high risk" and must have their licences renewed every year.

These procedures include mesotherapy, in which a drug cocktail is injected into the skin in order to melt fat.

The list was drawn up in 2008 as part of the ministry's attempt to regulate aesthetics medicine.

Last year, aesthetics doctors Georgia Lee and Low Chai Ling were cleared of performing unproven therapies, some of which were List B procedures.

But both did so before the list had been drawn up.

General practitioners (GPs) and dental clinics that have received below a certain number of demerit points will be considered "low risk" and can opt for a five-year licence period, up from the current two.

"Moderate-risk" clinics include GPs and dentists with a higher number of demerit points.

These will continue to remain under the current two-year licence period, as will hospitals, nursing homes, clinics that offer specialised procedures or liposuction, and all laboratories.

A ministry spokesman said the framework will be ready in the first half of this year, with details to be announced in due course.

Health-care institutions have been in trouble for various reasons in recent years. In 2009, property management boss Franklin Heng died following liposuction.

Nightingale Nursing Home was fined last year after a video of a resident being abused by its staff was made public.

A 66-year-old semi-retiree, who declined to be named, said he tried mesotherapy a few years ago to get rid of a beer belly.

"Stricter licensing should be the way," he added.

"I usually do extensive research and try treatments that are proven. But it is also up to doctors to make it clear to patients what exactly they have signed up for."

The Singapore Medical Association's Dr Wong Tien Hua said the new system will be more cost-effective and efficient as most clinics will probably be grouped as low risk.

More importantly, patient safety will be enhanced as high-risk practices will be monitored more closely.

Unproven treatments on the B list

List B procedures are backed by very little scientific evidence. They include:

  • Mesotherapy;
  • Carboxytherapy (using carbon dioxide to "kill" fat);
  • Microneedling dermaroller (microscopic punctures made in skin to treat scars);
  • Skin whitening injections;
  • Stem cell activator protein for skin rejuvenation (patients consume protein extract that "regenerates ageing tissue");
  • Negative pressure procedures, like vacustyler (meant to boost circulation);
  • Mechanised massage, such as endermologie (a treatment for cellulite).

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