Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New Standards Urged For Treatment At Spas

“Legislators and doctors are pushing tougher rules for the exploding medical spa business in Massachusetts, saying some of the thousands of consumers who receive laser treatments, chemical peels, and other procedures are being put at risk by unlicensed and untrained providers. These spas, which offer medical procedures along with traditional beauty salon services such as hair care and pedicures, would have to be licensed by the Department of Public Health, according to a proposal from a legislative task force. And laser skin procedures, including the removal of age spots and tattoos, would have to be performed by a doctor or nurse with special training. Nonmedical practitioners - cosmetologists, electrologists, and aestheticians - would be allowed to remove body hair using a laser, but only after special training and certification. The group said in its report that doctors and other professionals not specifically trained in dermatology have begun offering laser skin procedures, which ‘presents an unacceptable risk to patients.’ ‘An ER physician can't just walk out of their ER and start doing Botox’ injections, said Russell Aims, spokesman for the Board of Registration in Medicine, which licenses doctors and spearheaded the medical spa task force. ‘A hospital wouldn't allow a dermatologist to do brain surgery.’ Because consumers pay cash for cosmetic procedures, rather than use insurance coverage, ‘the same standards have not been applied as in traditional medicine,’ Aims said. The number of medical spas nationwide has skyrocketed to about 2,500, compared with 500 in 2004, said Hannelore Leavy of the International Medical Spa Association. The group, based in New Jersey, does not know how many of these spas operate in Massachusetts, but task force members said there are probably several hundred, with dozens along Boston's Newbury Street and in the Chestnut Hill section of Newton. Regulating medical spas is complicated because they combine many different professionals under one roof, including cosmetologists, electrologists, aestheticians, nurses, and physicians. In Massachusetts, each of these professions is licensed by its own board, and each has its own standards. There are no overall regulations governing who can do certain cosmetic procedures and what type of training is required, and there is no requirement that medical spas be licensed. Senator Joan Menard, a Democrat from Fall River who sponsored legislation based on the proposal; said she pushed for creation of the task force because she was hearing from friends and acquaintances "who were dermatologists or nurses about the growing incidence of damage to women by people who are not licensed and are using chemicals, or Botox or lasers. . . . There were people severely burned or scarred." The administration of Governor Deval Patrick believes that medical spas should be regulated because they perform medical procedures, although it has not taken a position on the filed legislation, said Paul Dreyer, director of healthcare safety and quality for the Department of Public Health. The agency does not have data on the frequency of problems at medical spas. Medical spa owners in Massachusetts are split over the proposed rules. Andrew Reudnick, president of Sleek Medical Spa, a Florida company with four locations in Massachusetts, said the regulations would ‘make it a much safer environment for consumers.’ But Karin Flynn, owner of Laser Spa in Newton, said that requiring spas to comply with a new set of extensive rules ‘would raise prices enormously’ for consumers.”


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