How To Find A Doctor in Aesthetics in South Africa

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Before embarking on your aesthetic journey, it is extremely important to be armed with as much industry knowledge as possible (and not just about your chosen procedure).  Factors such as where to go for your treatment, your doctor’s qualifications, and what is deemed illegal practice are only some of the concerns that need addressing.

Dr Riekie Smit, honorary secretary of the Aesthetic & Anti-Ageing Medicine Society of South Africa (AAMSSA) deliberates.  

Without a doubt, the key to a successful business in this highly competitive world lies in its marketing component. Infact, most often it’s the quality of marketing – rather than the skills of a person or company – that determines the amount of feet through the door.

However, while this is all acceptable and above board when it comes to the marketing of goods and services, the same cannot be said for the medical industry.

The reason for this is simple: Advertising of medical treatments cannot be compared to other service deliveries, as they are statutory controlled by the HPCSA and the Health Act.  This is in order to protect the public from harm and ensuring maximum safety.  Additionally, the regulations of marketing a medical treatment is very strict, and not because it is outdated, but specifically for honoring the Hyppocratic oath of “First, do no harm”.

Yet despite all the factors mentioned above, medical treatments – particularly aesthetic treatments – have unfortunately still fallen victim to this fast paced marketing world. And therein lies the problem.

So who you gonna call?

Now the million dollar question is: If you are not supposed to search for the best deals, the most professional website and social media marketing ‘doctor’, then how do you know where to go for your treatment?

Well, the best and most simplified way to answer this is by using the analogy listed below regarding aesthetic medicine and your choice of restaurants (but only in this instance!)

  1. The best pizza is from a pizza restaurant and the best steak is usually at a steak house.
  2. Service delivery is always an important factor.
  3. If you get diarrhoea from eating at a restaurant, especially twice, it’s best to find out why.
  4. The lower the prices on the menu, the lower the quality of food.
  5. If you want specific cuisine food, then choose a speciality cuisine restaurant.
  6. If you want Michelin star service and food, then you have to pay for it.

Where do you go for pizza and where do you go for steak?

  • Cosmetic surgery is performed by plastic and reconstructive surgeons. You can find a list of registered plastic surgeons on their society website: plasticsurgeons.co.za
  • Non-surgical aesthetic medical treatments (face injectables, chemical peels, lasers…) are perfomed by medical doctors that have first qualified as registered medical professionals, then completed further training in aesthetic medicine. You can find a list of doctors on the society website: aestheticdoctors.co.za
  • Dermatologists are medical doctors who are specialists in skin conditions. Some dermatologists also perform aesthetic medical treatments, if it falls within their interest, and they too have completed further training in aesthetic treatments.  You can find a dermatologist on their website: derma.co.za
  • Dentists are health care professionals within the dentistry profession that also perform aesthetic treatments. The HPCSA scope of practice does allow a dentist to perform any aesthetic or cosmetic procedure on a patient pertaining to the oral and peri-oral area (government Gazette 31958 March 2009).  sada.co.za
  • Other medical specialists may also perform aesthetic treatments within their scope of practice if this falls within their interest. For instance, a number of gynaecologists are now performing aesthetic gynaecological procedures.

Who may not perform what?

No medical treatment, diagnosis, examination, medical advice or administration, prescription of a medicine, or even medical devices may be given by someone not registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).  In simpler words, only a medical professional may give you, or prescribe for you, an injection or a medical treatment or product.

You additionally cannot receive an injection from someone without a prescription from a doctor for this injection.  Even if it’s deemed “natural”.  Many people receive slimming injections and tanning injections from non-medical professionals, claiming that not only is it natural – but if a diabetic can inject themselves, then anyone can have an injection without seeing a doctor.  However, they are forgetting that a diabetic patient can only receive their injections with a prescription from a doctor, and under the doctor’s supervision.

So in a nutshell, no person may have in their posession a scheduled regsitered medicine or medical device without the prescription of a doctor. All injectables are scheduled substances, as noted below:

“prescribing, administering or providing any medicine, substance or medical device as defined in the Medicines and Related Substances Act, 1965 (Act No. 101 of 1965)”

In summary, make sure you understand clearly what the treatment for your specific concern is about.  Get advice from a doctor (even if it’s your regular family doctor) about what medical specialty your treatment requires.  Then ensure you make an appointment with a medical professional that is registered with the HPCSA.  Lastly, nothing should stop you from asking the receptionist about the qualifications of the doctor, or from getting a second opinion when you feel uncertain.

Final thought

  • You will never see a cardiac surgeon advertise: “Buy one heart transplant and your friend gets 50% discount for theirs”. So why should you trust someone advertising an aesthetic medical treatment this way?  A registered health professional is not allowed to advertise in such a manner.
  • The HPCSA regularly take up cases against persons performing medical treatments or procedures and these persons are criminally prosecuted.
  • More information regarding the scope of professions can be found in The Health Professions Act (56 of 1974) Government Gazette 31958 of 6 March 2009.

For more aesthetic public information or to find a doctor, visit www.aestheticdoctors.co.za

A2 Disclaimer: This article is published for information purposes only, and should therefore not be taken as an endorsement or advertisement for any product or medical treatment –  nor should it be regarded as a replacement for sound medical advice. 

Issue 23 – September 2017 (Spring)

This article was written by Dr Riekie Smit and edited by the A2 team EXCLUSIVELY for the A2 Aesthetic & Anti-Ageing Magazine September Spring 2017 Edition (Issue 23). 

A2 Magazine prints only four magazines each year – reporting seasonally on everything you need and want to know about aesthetics, anti-ageing, integrative medicine, quality and medical skin care, cosmetic dentistry and cosmetic surgery in South Africa – where to go, who to see, what to expect, something new and so much more! Never miss an edition – click here for more info about where you can buy the print and/or digital copy of A2 Magazine (including back copies).

To make use of any of our content for re-publishing, please contact info@a2magazine.co.za for approval.

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About Author

Dr Riekie Smit

Dr Riekie Smit MBChB (UFS) MSc Sports Med (Pret) Adv Dip Aesth Med (FPD) - Art, Aesthetic Medicine and Science is her passion. Dr Smit is both a lecturer and trainer for local and international congresses and courses, and is the president of the Aesthetic & Anti-ageing Medicine Society of South Africa. Additionally, she is a faculty member of the American Academy of Aesthetic Medicine, and her greatest interest is in treating facial ageing, skin ageing and sun damage. Dr Smit is also an advisor, and is part of numerous research and development of products and treatments.

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