Australian Radiation and Nuclear Protection Society

I was interested to tune into the ABC yesterday to listen to Dr Ken Karipidis, the assistant director of the Assessment and Advice Section at ARPANSA, (Australian Radiation and Nuclear Protection Society) He was being interviewed following the recent release by ARPANSA of the national advice for both consumers and practitioners in the provision of light-based treatments.

Dr Ken Karipidis Interview

Dr Ken Karipidis

Dr Ken Karipidis, Assistant Director of the Assessment and Advice Section at ARPANSA

Of course, it was no surprise to hear the interviewer’s concern in his statements regarding lack of national regulations or government oversight of the industry. For those of us who love this dynamic industry of ours, it has long been an issue that has also concerned us. There have been several attempts over time to convene a representative body for the industry, specific to light based treatments but unfortunately, there never seems to be much momentum.

But I digress. What delighted me in listening to Dr Karipidis, was the recommendation that light-based treatment practitioners possess qualifications and that clients should be asking to sight proof of this training. ARPANSA is attempting to educate both consumers and practitioners with the release of these guidelines. As safe laser practitioners, we need to support them in this.

Not cost effective to introduce national guidelines

Unfortunately, ARPANSA deemed it not cost effective to introduce national guidelines in the 2015 Regulatory Impact Statement for Intense Pulsed Light sources (IPLs) and Lasers for Cosmetic or Beauty Therapy. Dr Karipidis explained that although ARPANSA is aware of and, indeed, been advised of incidents in treatments leading to injury, these were seen as anecdotal and not the basis for the necessity of national guidelines. They are also aware of the influx of machines that have slipped into the market place, again without oversight or listing with the Therapeutic Goods Association.

Imported Therapeutic or Cosmetic Laser Equipment

This points to another issue that walks a fine line. Are machines being brought in to the country by individuals and distributors therapeutic or cosmetic?  What oversight is there? Are they being installed and calibrated to ensure proper treatment protocols?

Imported Laser Equipment and Insurance

The insurance companies have been pretty clear about this: if you make a claim, your machine had better be listed with the TGA. The exact words that they used when I enquired about this is “it is assumed that all machines used within a clinic will be listed with the TGA.

So, it is buyer beware here on a couple of issues. If you use a machine that is not TGA listed and make a claim against your policy, you have wasted your money twice – in the cost of the machine and in the cost of your premium.

Insurers are now ‘Psuedo-Regulators’

The insurers have become our pseudo regulators. They are insisting on proof of training, sighting a clinic’s risk mitigation plans and overviewing clinic safety protocols. There have been a number of changes in recent years to what exactly they will cover. The treatment of Fitzpatrick skin types V and VI has also been limited to reduce the insurers’ liability. When renewing policies recently, many clinics are noting a change in test patch requirements from 24 hours to 48. This a reflection on the tightening of a number of insurer’s underwriting policies

Accredited Training Body

I have been quite openly criticised by some within the industry who do not see the need to invest the time and money that is required to become a government accredited training body. They will probably be quite vociferous again as they strive to protect their market share, but surely a government accredited qualification in laser safety should be the absolute minimum required of light therapists. It seems a dichotomy that, in Queensland, for example, to obtain a trainee laser licence a nationally accredited qualification in infection control is required, but not in laser safety.

Laser training for Medical Professionals as well

Training needs to apply to medical practitioners and nurses as well. Laser training, as far as I am aware, is not a part of any medical course at this time. The understanding of light physics and its interaction with skin and hair is paramount to an exceptional light therapy treatment. Understanding what can be treated is just as important as knowing what not to treat. I liken it to the practice of a General Practitioner being able to call themselves a Cosmetic Surgeon without obtaining any more qualifications.

RTO Qualifications

A qualification can only be issued by a Registered Training Organisation (RTO).  An RTO is a training facility accredited by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) which is the national regulator for Australia’s vocational education and training sector. ASQA regulates courses and training providers to ensure nationally approved quality standards of training are met. I’ve written previously about the difference between professional and Nationally Recognised training and that there can a place for both as long as the student understands that some training will not lead to a qualification.

An RTO is expected to move with the times. We need to make sure that changes within the industry and treatment protocols are reflected in our courses and that we comply with the latest Australia & New Zealand Standards.  It is also a requirement of our trainers that we continue to treat in a clinical situation. We are always at the front line!

I have written to state Federal and State Health Ministers and have contacted Radiation Health in all states.

I’m only a small voice and as such the lack of response has been deafening. I’m interested to hear any feedback.

I’ll keep you posted