Health Authority-Abu Dhabi inspectors are turning up the heat on unscrupulous and unlicensed facilities that put the public at risk.
Laser clinics face sharper scrutiny
Dubai // Clinics offering cosmetic and medical laser treatments in the capital will face fresh scrutiny this year as health officials clamp down on unscrupulous and unlicensed facilities. Inspectors at the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD) will examine medical equipment used in laser treatment and check out the people operating it in order to protect the public. The body will also publish guidelines on the requirements of clinics that perform the procedures.
Laser treatment is very popular in the removal of excess or very dark hair and also can be used to rectify skin problems such as scarring and pigmentation. According to an official at HAAD, there is a "very high risk" associated with any sort of laser treatment, and patients risk serious burns if they receive substandard care. "We will be looking closely at laser equipment and medical centres which offer this," Dr Mohammed Abuelkhair, the head of the medicines and medical regulation unit at the authority, said on the sidelines of Arab Health 2010 in Dubai yesterday. "The practice is increasing in use and we want to make sure that the right equipment is being used by the right people."
He said people often underestimated the dangers posed by these sorts of treatments and were much more vigilant when it came to invasive medical procedures or medications. To clear up any confusion, HAAD will be releasing new guidelines for the industry that will stipulate exactly who can perform laser surgery, and the requirements of the facility in which it is done. They will also set out the minimum training requirements for those operating the laser machinery.
"It will define how many hours of training they need to keep up-to-date to make sure they are practising safely," he said. "It should be done under the supervision of a physician." The guidelines and clinic inspections will include all medical devices, such as those used in microdermabrasion, chemical skin peels, collagen facial treatments and intense massage machines which are supposed to break up fats.
Much of the medical equipment - including laser machinery - is imported from India, China, Europe and other parts of the Middle East. By law, every device entering the country should be inspected by the Ministry of Health before being allowed to enter the market. But there are many shipments which go "under the radar" and are not checked, said Dr Taher Khalil, an endocrinologist who also owns his own laser clinic in Dubai.
"There are two issues; the equipment and the training of the person using the machine," he said. "I deal a lot with women who have excess hair so want laser hair removal. They need to look for a good person who has the proper training and is supervised by a licensed physician. Otherwise it can be dangerous." If the wrong dose is delivered it can cause serious burns and permanent damage, he said. "Equipment coming in should be inspected but sometimes it is not, for whatever reason, so the quality can vary a lot.
"It is essential people do their research before going to a clinic." The ministry was unavailable for comment yesterday. Jasmine Yammine, 26, visited one of the beauty centres on Jumeriah Beach Road in Dubai to enquire about laser hair removal two years ago. "A few of my friends had been to the same centre and said it was great and they were happy with the results, so I trusted them and booked an appointment," said the Palestinian.
Ms Yammine wanted to remove the fine hairs on her lower abdominal areas and was told the treatment would be 100 per cent effective. "When I went for my appointment, I was just met by a young girl my age, probably a beautician, and was never seen by a doctor or dermatologist," said Ms Yammine. "I didn't worry about anyone's qualifications; I thought it was no big deal." Ms Yammine said she now regrets her decision, because the results were not as successful as she was promised.
"I didn't have any bad side effects or scarring, but now I know I could have and I was just lucky," she said. These types of clinics, Ms Yammine discovered, are more beauty clinics than certified health facilities. "They are not that honest with you; they are just selling you a beauty treatment ... and if you aren't careful about where you go, it might turn out badly." Esra Abci, 29, an architect living in Dubai, emphasised the importance of thorough research.
The Turkish national, who suffered scarring from acne that left the surface of the skin on her face very uneven, spent almost Dh20,000 on 12 laser treatment sessions over the course of a year. "I researched good doctors online, and I knew I wanted a professional in a hospital and not just someone operating from a private clinic that wants to make a profit and will try and sell me any treatment," she said.
She found a Turkish doctor of cosmetology who was highly recommended on online discussion sites for facial laser treatment. "I was comfortable with the doctor when I met her, and she spoke Turkish too, so I could communicate what I wanted," she said. Despite the high price, Ms Abci said it was the only treatment which worked and she felt she was in safe hands. "Sometimes, these types of treatment are the only way available for someone to feel better about themselves and have better self-esteem and not suffer from depression, and in those cases, they are necessary," she said.
* The National