Ottawa mulls infection safeguards for spas, tattoo parlours
Posted: Jan 21, 2013 1:49 PM ET
Last Updated: Jan 22, 2013 8:59 AM ET
Esthetician Silvana Marotta has been running a business out of her home for about 20 years. She's not only heard the horror stories of clients who had bad pedicures elsewhere, she's got a story of her own.
Marotta said she was tired of doing her own pedicure before heading on vacation to Dubai, so she went to a Barrhaven nail salon.While there, the nail technician cut one of her toes, Marotta said, and within one week she lost the toenail due to fungus thought to be caused by the cut.
"They gave me a discount and that's it, and I said, 'I'll never be back here,'" Marotta said.
Ottawa's board of health met Monday and discussed a motion ordering Ottawa Public Health to explore ways to better improve infection prevention and control practices at personal service settings, a broad category of businesses that includes everything from tattoo parlours to spas. (See sidebar.)
Marotta said she agrees with the idea of increased inspections and tighter control on infection prevention. She believes there is a divide between nail salons that take extra precautions and those salons that focus more on efficiency and low costs.
Ottawa public health inspectors already inspect businesses in the personal services industry as part of their responsibilities outlined in the provincial Infection Prevention and Control in Personal Services Protocol.
But finding all of these businesses can prove a challenge, said Dr. Carolyn Pim, the associate medical officer of health.
"Some of them are quite informal," said Pim. "There's a lot of turnover, a lot of movement. Some opening up, some closing. It's difficult for us to know where they all are."
1 in 4 businesses with low-risk settings inspectedDisposable items used in a manicure or pedicure should not be reused, health inspectors say. (CBC)
Public health inspectors conducted 268 total inspections in 2012 to the 230 so-called high-risk personal service settings, such as tattoo parlours and piercing facilities that break the skin of customers in the course of their work.
But Ottawa Public Health inspected only about a quarter of the 650 low-risk settings — businesses that include spas and hair salons.
"Our inspectors have a bunch of responsiblities. That includes food facilities, outbreak management and so on. And we're constantly balancing those priorities," said Pim.
Inspector Christian Lapense said Ottawa's health department has never had reports of outbreaks connected to spas, but added no venue is risk-free and Ottawa public health officials are looking at how to keep on top of infection control.
One of the options health staff could consider would be to have inspections of personal service settings posted online, similar to the what officials do with restaurant inspections.
Another option on the table is the requirement to license these businesses, as Toronto's city council voted to do in November.
Donna Holtum with Holtz Spa said she welcomes licensing as an option.
"I think this will only improve and raise the quality of service and protect the consumer," she said.
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