Move to stop botched ops
Despite several cases of horrific mutilation of women's breasts through botched plastic surgery, loopholes continue to allow some general practitioners to perform cosmetic surgery.
But these loopholes could soon be sewn shut when the Health Professions Council of SA finishes drawing up regulations on which procedures medical practitioners may perform.
Currently, GPs may perform certain cosmetic procedures if they are able to show they are "adequately" trained and qualified. However, the registrar and CEO of the council, Dr Buyiswa Mjamba-Matshoba, said "adequately" had never been defined.
A task team set up by the council has been working for two years to determine which procedures specialists and general practitioners are qualified to perform.
Some plastic surgeons hope regulations will bring an end to the destruction of the lives of women whose cosmetic surgery goes awry.
A Gauteng woman, who did not want to be named, endured six years of trauma after plastic surgery performed by a general practitioner left her breasts damaged beyond repair.
Association of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons of Southern Africa executive committee member Dr Chris Snijman believes reality shows have made cosmetic surgery popular, but have "bastardised what we do. Plastic surgery gone wrong causes bad scarring, loss of feeling, asymmetric breasts, skin loss, implant malposition and even tissue death. Liposuction performed incorrectly causes strange contours".
Snijman hopes regulations - soon to be gazetted - will clarify the procedures doctors may perform.
General practitioner Dr Henry Martin, who has done breast enlargements since 1970, said: "I have daughters who come to me because their mothers had a successful operation 25 years ago. I have done more than 4000 procedures."
He believes plastic surgeons are complaining about GPs because they offer cheaper operations.
Breast-enlargement operations can be done for R25000, while plastic surgeons charge upwards of R40000.
Martin said he had more experience than a plastic surgeon who is just starting out: "Cosmetic surgery is not taught at medical school.
Therefore a plastic surgeon may have done six breast implant procedures before qualifying as a surgeon."
Plastic surgeon Dr Saul Braun said the incidence of cosmetic surgery by GPs that went wrong had reached "epidemic" proportions: "I see between eight and 10 patients who need corrective surgery every month."