The Straits Times
By Salma Khalik
SINGAPORE – Out of 29 clinics now offering liposuction, the removal of fat for aesthetic reasons, only nine will be allowed to continue doing so.
From March next year, liposuction treatment can be done only in hospitals or clinics approved for day surgery, under new Ministry of Health (MOH) rules to tighten control of this procedure and improve patient safety.
Liposuction has already led to at least two deaths here in the past five years.
In a statement issued yesterday, the MOH said: “As a highly invasive procedure, liposuction has been known to cause severe complications, including death. Hence, it should be carried out only by trained doctors in well-equipped and well-staffed facilities.”
Under the new rules, the removal of more than one litre of fat from one spot will have to be done in a hospital as an inpatient treatment.
So will any liposuction for people with a body mass index (BMI) of 28 and below, or who require general anaesthesia. A BMI higher than 28 is considered obese in Asians.
Until now, these could be done at clinics licensed to do day surgery, which are called ambulatory surgical centres.
In future, these centres will be allowed to do only liposuctions that involve less than one litre of fat.
All clinics that are now licensed to do liposuction have been informed of the changes, which are already in effect, but will not be enforced till March 1 next year, to give them a grace period to wind down their liposuction treatments.
Regulations on doctors and clinics allowed to do liposuction were instituted in November 2008, and revised in 2010, following a rise in the number of general practitioners offering the treatment.
The Straits Times reported last year that there were 38 general practitioners and 24 specialists, including plastic surgeons, accredited to perform liposuction in Singapore. Latest figures show that only 24 doctors have full accreditation, with another 34 having conditional accreditation. Doctors working in hospitals do not need this accreditation.
Plastic surgeon Leslie Kuek, one of the 24 fully accredited doctors, said the changes would mean he will have to perform the treatment somewhere else, as his clinic is not a surgical centre. “I don’t understand the rationale behind this. It would be useful for the MOH to have a dialogue with senior doctors in private practice over the changes,” he said.
In December 2009, real estate firm boss Franklin Heng, 44, died after the doctor doing the liposuction accidentally punctured his intestines several times. In June last year, Ms Mandy Yeong, 44, died following her liposuction procedure at a Clarke Quay clinic. Fat loosened during the treatment blocked the blood vessels in her lungs, causing difficulty in breathing.