Cosmetic incidents raise legal debate

15:30 | 15/11/2019
Highly-increasing demand for beauty products and services in Vietnam has led to a boom in this profitable industry, involving hospitals, clinics, spas, and even hairdressing salons. However, such products and services bear some risks for customers, requiring stricter management from the authorities. Thu Hao reports.
cosmetic incidents raise legal debate
Only licensed practitioners can provide efficient and safe cosmetic procedures (Photo: Le Toan)

Working in Vietnam for seven years in the field of cosmetic surgery, South Korean doctor John Hwang still sees Vietnam as a ­market full of potential which is on the way becoming the region’s leading centre of in the field.

“Vietnam has a large population and a high birth rate. In addition, more and more foreigners choose the country for medical services, particularly for beauty services, because of reasonable prices and good quality,” Hwang said.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Phan Tu Dzung, director of JW Korea Plastic Hospital based in Ho Chi Minh City said at a recent conference on cosmetic surgery that the number of overseas Vietnamese coming to his hospital has increased by 20 per cent on-year.

“Particularly in 2018, the hospital welcomed about 400-500 overseas Vietnamese to carry out plastic surgery,” Dzung said. “The demands are mainly for porcelain teeth, nose, face, abdominal liposuction, breast augmentation, or jaw work.”

At a workshop on brand positioning for the Vietnamese beauty and cosmetics industry, which took place in Hanoi last month, Hoang Quang Phong, vice chairman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that although Vietnam’s beauty industry is developing later than in other places, the country’s turnover in the field was $2.3 billion in 2018. “With growth of 20 per cent and a population of nearly 100 million, the turnover in this field will be much greater,” he said.

In his opinion, the rapid growth of this sector in Vietnam has enabled both unlicensed doctors and even amateurs to take advantage of loopholes in regulations.

Booming market

At a seminar on national management of beauty services in Ho Chi Minh City last week, Le Minh Hung, deputy head of the Medical Management Division under Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health, said that there are 15 hospitals specialised on aesthetics, 10 general hospitals with aesthetic wards, 186 aesthetic clinics, and nearly 1,400 spas and skincare facilities in the city.

Meanwhile, according to Pham Xuan Khanh, vice president of the Vietnam Association of Beauty and Development, there are about 2,000 spas and beauty salons opening theirs doors in ­Vietnam every year. However, he confirmed that the fast growth of cosmetic surgery services had led to many troubles.

“The abundance of beauty salons and spas can be seen everywhere. Notably, these facilities are granted to provide non-invasive services, but they still advertise and carry out services like rhinoplasty or breast augmentation,” he said.

Khanh did not have to mention the large number of hairdressing salons that can easily be seen on every street corner, particularly in the countryside. In addition, many facilities are offering services for which they are not qualified.

“It’s easy to find tattoo services in hairdressing facilities where equipment and places are not sterilised. There are also no medical supplies and equipment in case of an emergency,” Trinh Anh Dung, director of Keangnam Korea Beauty Center told VIR. “The prices there are, of course, much cheaper than the ones at professional tattoo parlours.” Vietnamese people often choose services based on the price without thinking of their safety, Dung added.

“It may be that both providers and customers fail to think that such simple services can be dangerous to health and life.”

The operation of such facilities has recently overshadowed the beauty industry in Vietnam.

In the afternoon of November 7, Cho Ray Hospital in District 5 received a 28-year-old woman transferred from District 2 Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Earlier, the woman stopped breathing and her heart stopped, two minutes after having received anaesthetics before nose surgery at the Vivian Beauty Salon.

Two days previously, the same hospital received a 21-year-old patient who lost sight in her left eye. According to the patient, she had nose filler treatment at a spa at a cost of only VND2 million ($87), but after being injected with just half of the filler tube, she suddenly felt pain and lost sight shortly thereafter.

The examination results showed that the patient ­suffered from a retinal vein occlusion, conjunctival haemorrhages, and corneal oedema.

Earlier on October 11, a 59-year-old US woman passed away after receiving a facelift service at Kangnam Plastic Surgery Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.

The public were shocked just six days later by another tragedy, with the death of a 33-year-old Vietnamese woman who was receiving breast augmentation at EMCAS Beauty Clinic located in the city.

Elsewhere on October 27, a 65-year-old woman suddenly stopped breathing and fell into a deep coma after having her eyebrows tattooed in a salon. According to the doctors at Nhan dan Gia Dinh Hospital, the patient suffered brain bleeding and currently remains in a coma now.

Meanwhile in Hanoi, after reading an advertisement on social media, on October 1, a 28-year-old woman visited Thuy Anh International Beauty Salon in Hai Ba Trung district to receive breast augmentation by injecting fat. The procedure was said to cost a total of VND20 million ($870). During the process, the girl fainted and had convulsions. Immediately, she was taken to Thanh Nhan Hospital.

In just over a month, there have been seven serious known accidents from using cosmetic surgery nationwide, two of them resulting in deaths. The victims had hopes of becoming more beautiful and more confident, but ultimately did not get the chance to see the desired results.

“In cosmetics, accidents can happen anywhere at any time, but experienced doctors will know what to do, and what to use in such cases,” Vu Ngoc Lam, director of the Center for Craniofacial and Plastic Surgery at Central Military Hospital 108, told VIR.

Remaining gaps

According to the certificate of business household registration issued by the Department of Finance and Planning of Hai Ba Trung district in Hanoi, Thuy Anh International Beauty Salon is owned by Tran Thuy Anh with business capital of VND30 million ($1300). The salon provides beauty services such as skincare, cosmetic tattooing and spraying, hair cutting and washing, nail design, and disposal of cosmetic products. Liposuction and breast augmentation are not within the scope of operation of this facility.

Meanwhile, Dinh Viet Hung, the practising doctor at EMCAS Beauty Clinic, was found to have used a fake certificate. According to Hung’s license of practice from 2013 signed by Phan Van Bau, former deputy director of Ho Chi Minh City’s Department of Health, he can only exam and treat traumatic injuries and not perform plastic surgery.

However, to rationalise his operation, Hung used a fake license which added plastic surgery into his scope.

According to Le Quang Anh, head of the Professional Division under the Dong Nai Department of Health, “using fake certificates is not that rare. There is often a team to make fake licenses particularly for popular specialities like cosmetic surgery.”

“Practitioners using fake licenses without actual study in this field will earn quite a lot of money. But at least, they are still doctors in other surgical fields.”

Stricter management

Le Hanh, chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Plastic Surgery Association, said that according to the current licensing process, after attending classes for a fixed period of time, students will have 18 months of practice before being officially licensed.

“The period of 18 months is not long enough for students to meet the licensing conditions. During that time, they cannot get enough experience in handling plastic surgery over all areas of the human body. Therefore, the training programme must be at least three years long and it should include a designated part with a certain timeframe for cosmetic surgery,” Hanh said.

Hanh also suggested tightly managing related advertisements. “If we cannot control advertisements, the operation of plastic surgery will remain chaotic.”

Meanwhile, according to Tran Thi Nhi Ha, deputy director of Hanoi Department of Health, this agency has received a lot of applications for licenses from people and units in other localities in Vietnam. In her opinion, there should be a mechanism to cross-check among localities as the case of Dinh Viet Hung from EMCAS is not the only one.

Emphasising the role of technology, Nguyen Tan Binh, director of Ho Chi Minh City’s Department of Health said that it is time to implement the application of IT based on the Internet of Things in order to help people easily inform the authorities about illegal facilities of beauty services.

Vietnam is emerging as a new centre of beauty services in the region. To ensure the healthy development of the industry, besides improving people’s awareness, a detailed legal framework on establishment and operation of facilities along with a strict mechanism of penalties are necessary.

John Hwang - Chief surgeon, Keangnam Korea Beauty Center

Vietnam is an emerging ­centre of beauty services in the Indochina region. Doctors and nurses here are smart and equipped with ­excellent skills. However, it seems that the attitude ­towards customers is not very good.

Consultors in this field should be honest to ­customers and not simply look at the customers’ money. You should satisfy ­customers first, then they will automatically satisfy you.

Some accidents in the recent past time show us that the business is developing so fast in Vietnam while the country is lacking enough licensed doctors.

However, such medical procedures are always related to people’s lives. Therefore, there is no acceptable excuse.

In South Korea, we ­experienced the same situation 15 or 20 years ago. Actually, it is the demand of the market. But we solved this problem by expanding providers and increasing the number of clinics, doctors, nurses, technicians, and managers.

This led to severe competition among doctors, hence services have been improved. We considered the problem as a chance to improve the industry. Our services, then, were divided into different levels: VIP, top, middle, and lower class. This shows that education is very important.

Vocational certificates should be granted for those who were trained for years in specialised training facilities.

I know that it is not easy to regulate this booming business, but stricter regulations are absolutely needed. And most importantly, Vietnam should develop all the necessary components for this business at the same time, including education, training, and related infrastructure facilities.

In addition, when there’s a strict legal framework, we should work according to this, let people participate in the management of this industry, and let the market contour itself.

Pham Hoang Kham - Former head Department of Dermatology Central Military Hospital 103

Recently, I found that Hanoi’s Department of Health strictly examined beauty facilities in the city. If there is false advertisement or operation that goes beyond their license, this agency will immediately withdraw the facility’s license or force them to close. I highly appreciate this behaviour.

In my opinion, the management will be more ­efficient if there is a participation of people. We should have a hotline or an address for people to quickly inform the authorities when they discover violations.

With the development of technology, beauty services in Vietnam are now much more modern. We can use AI to support the diagnosis of skin diseases. However, the application is in its initial steps, so we need a ­mechanism, as well as an open legal framework so that AI machines for the health sector and the beauty industry can be piloted.

Besides this, the application requires people who are very good at algorithms, leading doctors, and information technology which make products work fast and efficiently. So, once again the issue of education is very important. We should be strict in terms of training, education, and granting ­certificates.

Le Lan Anh - 26 years old, Hanoi

My friend used a rhinoplasty service in a plastic surgery clinic in Hanoi once. The price was about VND40 million ($1,700) but she received a half-price discount. She looks nicer and now I want to change my appearance too. I searched for information at a clinic in Cau Giay district, and they advertised rhinoplasty surgery at only VND10.5 million ($450). I am afraid that the quality might be low.

I know there were accidents after implementing cosmetic surgery. But I think abdominal liposuction or breast augmentation are dangerous, while simpler surgeries are not that risky.

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