Threats to Dubai’s cosmetic surgery market

 

The Emirates Plastic Surgery Society (EPSS) says it has no power to regulate the work of cosmetics clinics but is seeking additional authority to oversee the industry.

However, the situation is being complicated by the fact that a majority of clinics are owned by investors and not by doctors or medical practitioners. "Nearly 10% (of cosmetic clinics) are owned by surgeons and specialists, and this is one of the reasons behind the intense competition and dropping treatment rates," said Luiz Toldeo, a consultant plastic surgeon and science director at EPSS.

"The bosses are not the surgeons, and the surgeons have no say in what is being promoted," said Toldeo in reference to the promotions being offered. "When prices are low, the quality of treatment will deteriorate … because you can’t travel to get knowledge and can’t buy the right material because they are expensive," said Toldeo. "So you have to use cheaper things, re-sterilised raw materials because you can’t buy disposable material because they are expensive. Everything tends to be downgraded. When the quality of the treatment goes down, Dubai’s medical tourism goes down."

The article says that there are 236 licensed plastic surgeons and 386 licensed dermatologists in Dubai. There are 277 facilities offering plastic surgery and dermatology services, according to Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

The number of cosmetic surgeons is also the highest concentration in any part of the world, Toldeo said. In terms of ratio of plastic surgeons to the population, Dubai has 47 practitioners for every million, while the ratio is 24 surgeons for every million in the US and 31 in Brazil, he said.

In 2016, medical tourism generated more than US$381 million (Dh1.4 billion) for the city, according to Dubai’s Health Tourism Council.

Sabet Salahia, a plastic, cosmetic and aesthetic surgeon, said when he arrived in Dubai in 1999, there were just 10 plastic surgeons in the city. The numbers began rising after Dubai’s initiative to become a hub for foreign investments, he said. Salaha said investments in cosmetic clinics are good for the business. It is a ‘luxury speciality’, not related to (health) insurance, and the "patient pays cash," he said.

Insurance, usually, doesn’t cover cosmetic procedures although plastic surgery is one of the five leading popular procedures for health tourism. The procedure that has the highest demand is liposuction. Other common surgeries and cosmetic procedures include Botox, dermal fillers and liposuction, according to DHA.

Cosmetic plastic surgeons have also complained that social media is sending the wrong message to ordinary people. "I have seen clinics in Dubai posting (images of people) before and after treatment. They are different patients …. They [the clinics] don’t get punished and they don’t get sued. And maybe they do, and we don’t know because they are too many" said Luiz Toldeo.

EPSS has suggested to the concerned health departments to put in place a mechanism to control ads making false claims attracting people who may not know what is safe and what is not, said Sabet Salahia.

Dubai health authorities said licensing of plastic surgeons comes after thorough examination. "Physicians are evaluated following strict licensing regulations as well in terms of ethical, moral and social responsibility to ensure every individual who accesses the system will benefit from safe and high-quality healthcare," Layla Al Marzouqi, Director of the Health Tourism Council said in the article.

For further analysis of the types of medical treatment attracting international patients to Dubai, visit the UAE IMTJ Country Profile.

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