As revealed recently on SBS and in the Newcastle Herald, Dr Nicholas Moncrieff has called for a cautious response from patients and the Government in relation to NIB’s plan to facilitate overseas cosmetic surgery.
Our view is that like most things in life, cheap medicine is cheap for a reason. Australian Plastic Surgeons, hospitals and nursing staff are some of the most regulated in the world and therefore provide outstanding levels of medical care, Dr Moncrieff commented.
On average, our practice sees at least one unhappy patient a week who has suffered complications from surgery overseas, most who have often been told that they will be fixed for free under Medicare. This is untrue – these patients must outlay many more thousands of dollars to fix problems as our examples below show. And if they go with the NIB product they may well be no better off given the extensive legalities required to have complications attended to.
One of the most common cosmetic procedures performed overseas is breast augmentation, generally for around $6,000 – $8,000 once you add in the actual costs of travel and hotels – most of the site offering these services conveniently forgot to add up the total costs! At Hunter Plastic Surgery we currently charge $11,990 for this procedure when performed by an Australian Plastic Surgeon using leading brand implants and an overnight hospital stay. However, for us to remove and replace implants inserted by other surgeons that have complications, the cost is at least $17,000 for uninsured patients. Concerning for taxpayers, they would have to pay $786 for this (assuming no emergency care) and for insured patients, other fund members would pick up approximately $11,000 of this amount!
We think the Government should be asking questions about how complications will be managed once the patient is back in Australia and who will be paying for them, especially those treated for life-threatening illnesses in public hospitals or repaired in private hospitals with the tab being picked up by health fund members in Australia. We have written to Federal Health Minister Dutton expressing our concerns for patients, taxpayers and health fund members who will have to pick up the pieces when things go wrong, Dr Moncrieff concluded.
Prospective patients should also look closely at the safety of the countries they are travelling to. With a State of Emergency being enforced in Bangkok in Thailand following violent protests in early 2014, Australians travelling there for medical procedures should heed the Australian Department of Foreign and Trade warning suggesting travellers “exercise a high degree of caution”. Not really an ideal environment to be recovering from major surgery surely?
Of particular concern for patients from Newcastle is that NIB will not be offering any local support from a Plastic Surgeon so they will be required to travel back to the foreign country or in other places in NSW to address complications. While we are pleased that NIB will also offer packages with Australian Plastic Surgeons rather than others in the market who offer cosmetic procedures for primary surgery, again, there are none in Newcastle who have agreed with NIB to provide this service.
Also disappointing is that the NIB “12 month promise” to fix complications is actually a legal minefieldaccording to the copy on their website. Dr Moncrieff commented, “I’ll certainly be wary of any surgery which offers to fix complications only if the patient can prove to a Medical Advisory Committee that they followed every instruction to the letter as the NIB guarantee demands. That’s not the patient care model I follow.”
PATIENT CASE STUDY: The patient below is a 40 year old lady who had travelled to Thailand for cosmetic surgery, including a silicon implant to give her nose more projection. It had become badly infected and exposed, leaving her with the serious defect you can see in the before picture below. She then came to see Dr Moncrieff who had to operate in hospital to remove the foreign matter and repair the hole using a bilobe flap. All up, this patient has spent over $3000 fixing this problem and taxpayers through Medicare rebates have had to pay $750 of that.
Recent Hunter Plastic Surgery media on this issue:
SBS (21/4/14), Daily Telegraph (25/3/14), Newcastle Herald (25/3/14), Radio 3AW (25/3/14), Radio 2NUR (25/3/14), Newcastle Herald (19/11/13), Australian Medicine (4/11/13), Radio 2NUR (20/11/13) , News.com.au (14/11/13) and Plastic Surgery Hub, Triple Js Hack program (28/11/13).