By Molly Hennessy-Fiske/Los Angeles Times
Two years ago Maria Garcia, a 39-year-old mother of five, came to a suburban office park in Anaheim Hills for outpatient plastic surgery. By day’s end, she had bled to death from a puncture wound. Garcia did not know that the widely advertised Hills Surgical Institute Inc., recommended by a friend, had opened only 90 days earlier. Family members said she had no idea that one of her doctors was under investigation by the California Medical Board.
She also did not know that Hills Surgical Institute failed to meet the state’s requirements for surgical centers that use general anesthesia, according to her family’s attorney, Jin Lew. It was not state-licensed, Medicare certified, or privately accredited. The center instead fell into a gap in the patchwork of rules that loosely govern the state’s billion-dollar cosmetic surgery industry.
In 2007, California stopped licensing surgery centers owned at least partly by a licensed doctor. The move came after a doctor successfully challenged the state’s regulatory authority in court. According to the state Department of Public Health, only 45 surgical centers are now state-licensed, compared with about 480 before the law changed. An additional 715 are certified to bill Medicare for treatments such as orthopedic care, eye surgeries, and weight-loss related procedures. Hundreds more operate as cash-only businesses that specialize in elective cosmetic procedures, many without accreditation, experts say.
[Source: Los Angeles Times]