Police are investigating the death of a woman who lost consciousness after undergoing liposuction at a private clinic specialising in hair transplants yesterday.
While the cause of death is still under investigation, the case is the latest in a series of tragedies involving medical procedures at private clinics. It prompted calls for the government to act on its promise to tighten regulations on beauty salons and private clinics.
The woman, dance teacher Lee Ka-ying, 32, underwent the fat-reduction procedure at Regrowth Hair Transplant Centre, on the seventh floor of a commercial building in Carnarvon Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. Complications emerged at 3.30pm and she was rushed to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei. She was declared dead shortly after 5pm.
Kowloon West regional crime unit was investigating but no arrests had been made, a spokesman said. The Health Department will assist in the inquiry.
A police source said the surgery was carried out by Dr Kwan Hau-chi, 32. Lee, who lived in Lam Tin, was accompanied by her husband.
She is believed to have undergone an earlier liposuction procedure to remove fat from her abdomen in April. Yesterday's operation is understood to have been to remove fat from her back.
It is not known whether Lee was given local, regional or general anaesthetic.
Government sources told the Post in March that a Health Department working group would recommend a ban on high-risk medical procedures at private clinics and beauty salons without the department's approval. At present, even procedures involving general anaesthetic can be carried out anywhere.
The review followed a series of deadly blunders at beauty centres. In 2012, one woman died and three others suffered serious injuries following blood-transfusion therapy at a beauty clinic.
In 2010, a young woman died after a beauty centre referred her to a gynaecologist to have breast enlargement surgery. That case prompted a coroner to call on the government and medical professions to set firm guidelines on beauty procedures.
"Regulations on private premises have been too lax," said Dr Walter King Wing-keung, president of the Hong Kong Association of Cosmetic Surgery. "There is no inspection to check whether the facilities of these so-called medical clinics are [suitable]."
He said liposuction was a high-risk procedure and should take place in clinics with good facilities including oxygen supply, blood pressure and breathing monitors, and first aid equipment. Obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes added to the risk of major complications for patients, he said.
Federation of Beauty Industry chairman Nelson Yip Sai-hung said beauty salons usually employed doctors to run separate clinics for medical procedures. These were usually found in residential or commercial buildings. He agreed the government should ensure all operating theatres met hospital standards.
The Regrowth clinic, on the seventh floor of the Kincheng Commercial Centre, is registered to Chau Siu-man and Gwen Lau Po-shan. They also own a clinic on the eighth floor of the same building that specialises in weight loss and freckle removal.
The owners and Kwan could not be reached for comment.