Blood therapy

Ban on risky surgery at beauty salons after death of therapy patient

Government rules to close loophole after 2012 fatality during beauty clinic transfusion therapy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 March, 2014, 4:28am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 May, 2015, 10:02am

Doctors are to be banned from carrying out high-risk medical procedures in beauty salons or other private premises without Department of Health approval, the Post has learned.

The changes come after one woman died and three others suffered serious injuries following blood-transfusion therapy at a beauty clinic in 2012.

The new rules - to be put forward by a Food and Health Bureau working group panel set up to investigate medical regulation - will close a loophole allowing operations, even those involving general anaesthetic, to be carried out anywhere.

"Now there is no regulation to define what procedures a doctor can perform outside a hospital," said one panel member. "We do not want to regulate every medical procedure, but there should be rules to ban high-risk ones carried out in substandard premises without facilities for emergency treatment."

Details of the licensing system, including the penalties for breaching the rules, have yet to be decided.

Medical sector lawmaker Dr Leung Ka-lau urged the panel not to go too far, in case it led doctors to being prosecuted for performing on-the-spot emergency operations. "If there is an emergency, a doctor will have to perform medical procedures on patients wherever they are, even if they are on the street," Leung said.

A government source confirmed some dangerous procedures would be regulated, and sites used for high-risk treatment would be registered or licensed.

The panel had identified three general principles to consider in defining whether a treatment is high-risk: the potential harm to the patient; the use of anaesthesia; and pre-existing conditions the patient had, the source said.

Procedures involving bronchoscopy - in which foreign objects are inserted into the airway - and general anaesthesia or anaesthesia affecting more than half the body would be considered high risk and carried out only at hospitals or approved locations. But some simple procedures, such as colonoscopy and gastroscopy, would not be covered. "We will list only the major principles to allow some flexibility," the source said.

The panel is one of four set up under a steering committee led by health minister Dr Ko Wing-man to look into private health care since the death of Chan Yuen-lam after treatment at a DR beauty centre in Causeway Bay.

Others are examining beauty treatments, premises for advanced therapies and rules for private hospitals.

While not illegal, doctors can be sanctioned by the Medical Council for performing surgery in an inappropriate place if their behaviour is deemed malpractice.