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Health Officials Weigh Oversight At Cosmetic Surgery Centers After Fatal Infection

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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TIMONIUM, Md. (WJZ)– Health officials shut down a cosmetic surgery center after a bacterial outbreak killed one woman and hospitalized two others. But there are still concerns and questions.

Mike Hellgren has the first television interview with the victim’s family and why the facility where this happened is not licensed.

The state health department admits they simply don’t license these types of cosmetic surgery clinics, including this one which billed itself as a spa.

Health inspectors shut it down but questions linger about how patients got so sick.

The blinds are drawn and the door is locked at Monarch Medspa in Timonium. State health inspectors cited health dangers and closed the clinic after three people were hospitalized with serious Group A strep infections. One of them, a 59-year-old nurse from Baltimore County, died just six days after undergoing liposuction.

Her brother– who spoke first to WJZ– asked that we conceal her identity because she was a private person and didn’t want anyone to know she was getting the procedure after struggling with her weight throughout her life.

“She was in good physical shape, but she wanted to get over that last hurdle,” he said. “We feel that her case was grossly mishandled, and we want to see justice done.”

“She had excessive bleeding and returned the next day for a follow-up but the doctor was not available. She was re-bandaged by an assistant of some sort and sent home,” the victim’s brother explained.

He says she was later treated at two hospitals but the infection spread so fast, doctors couldn’t save her.

“This is terrible. This is awful. This is horrific, and something has to be done to stop this from happening,” he said.

While the doctors and nurses must be board certified, these facilities are not licensed by the state. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) will now look into oversight.

The lack of regulation shocks many people. There are dozens of cosmetic surgery centers across Maryland.

In online ads, Monarch Medspa touts the training of doctors and says it performs more than 50,000 procedures a year from locations in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

“It had the comfort of a spa, but the security of a medical facility,” said a testimonial from Monarch’s online ad. “I felt very confident.”

But the family of the woman who died is more than outraged. They want action and answers.

“I’d like to see all of the clinics shut down. I’d like to see a thorough and complete investigation of their entire operation,” the victim’s brother said.

“My sister had no expectation to die. She had plans for the future. Now, that’s all ended. We don’t know how we’re going to make it without her,” he added.

Monarch Medspa said in a statement that it extends sympathy to the family, that it is concerned about the safety of patients and that the origin of the infections is being carefully investigated.

The infections stemmed from mid-August to the middle of this month. State health officials are urging patients to get checked out if they have redness, fever or severe pain.

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