Last week, the police raided a beauty salon in Causeway Bay and arrested 11 women, including the owner of the salon, on charges of fraud and practising medicine without a license.
According to media reports, the suspects were members of a syndicate who allegedly cheated seven patients out of HK$5 million (US$644,134) by offering them “alternative treatments to revitalize the brain”.
They claimed the procedure, which included oxygen-inhalation and infrared treatment, would cure them.
Two of the victims died of cancer during the course of the treatment but it’s not known whether their deaths directly resulted from it.
The incident again raised public concern over inadequate government regulation of beauty salons and private health clubs.
After two women died of invasive medical procedures by non-registered beauty salon staff in 2012, there have been calls for tighter regulation of the industry.
But three years later, at a Legislative Council hearing, officials from the Food and Health Bureau said there was no need for further legislation because most procedures performed in beauty salons are non-invasive.
Besides, they argued that beauty salons are already banned from performing 15 high-risk procedures.
But the scam that came to light last week shows that even low-risk or non-invasive treatments can be fatal if handled by anyone other than a qualified doctor or a healthcare professional.
The authorities should review existing laws and regulations and close loopholes immediately.
The fact that some medical equipment and anesthetics were seized by the police during the raid shows the government is not doing enough to regulate their use by the beauty salon industry.
Discussions on the subject have been under way since 2004 but until now, the government has yet to come up with a timetable to introduce related legislation.
Even after the beauty industry was placed under the qualifications framework scheme and a panel was created to oversee the training of beauty salon workers, the scheme operates on a voluntary basis.
In order to make sure industry workers are well-trained and well qualified, the government should make the scheme mandatory.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 13
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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