General practitioners may face tighter controls or even a blanket ban on carrying out liposuction or other high-risk medical procedures, the health minister says.
Non-specialist doctors are at present allowed to perform liposuction, but in future, certain types of work would fall within the remit of specialists only, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said.
Ko expressed "deep concern" yesterday over the death of dance teacher Lee Ka-ying, 32, who lost consciousness after a session to remove fat from her body.
He was in discussion with the medical sector on defining which procedures warranted stricter checks, he said.
A public consultation would be held later this year to examine whether and how to regulate high-risk procedures and the operation of beauty centres, after which the government would draft the legislation for tabling in the Legislative Council.
"We accept the criticism that it has taken too long [to regulate]," Ko said. In the beauty industry, grey areas exist where treatments require medical equipment but are conducted in salons and private clinics.
Veteran plastic surgeon Dr Gordon Ma Fong-ying said the risk of liposuction was generally not high if the patient was under the proper care of a medical team, which should include a surgeon and an anaesthetist.
But if the process involved removing large amounts of fat, it should be performed in hospital, he said. "A hospital has blood stored up for transfusions and intensive-care facilities [in case of emergency]," Ma said.
He listed as possible dangers fluid imbalance, blood loss, fat entering the blood vessels and accidental injuries inflicted on organs by the liposuction tube, although the risks were not considered high.
Doctor and lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, who sits on Legco's health services panel, said he had written to panel chairman Dr Leung Ka-lau requesting a special meeting to discuss how to regulate doctors who had business links with the beauty industry. "I am very much concerned about the malpractice of doctors when they are running a beauty business with those parlours," Kwok said.
He also criticised the government for dragging its feet on regulating salons that provided beauty treatments involving medical procedures.
Leung did not return calls from the South China Morning Post for comment.