SpaTrade has learned that Nuvo International, a "medispa" chain that badly burned two Northen California women during laser hair removal procedures, has declared bankruptcy. Both women are now suing Nuvo International, and state officials have launched an investigation. Television station KRON's recent investigation on Nuvo illustrates that, in the eyes of the media and the public, laser clinics and medical spas are viewed as synonomous. KRON's put Nuvo in the category of "so-called medispas -- clinics that looks more like a spa, performing medical cosmetic procedures at malls."

Nuvo has 12 clinics in the Bay Area and Sacramento, supervised by three doctors. 'The victims asked to see a doctor but there was no doctor available,' says dermatologist Dr. Christine Lee. Dr. Lee is a UCSF clinical faculty member and an expert in laser hair removal. She says the biggest problem with medispas like Nuvo is lack of supervision. When Contact 4's Joe Ducey went into Nuvo's Richmond, California location, there wasn't even a manager around, let alone a doctor. Also, the supervising doctor Carolyn Million's primary specialty is colorectal (colon) surgery, not dermatology.

'If the doctor had been on site and had been able to administer help immediately, probably they would have been able to mitigate a lot of the damages. The government should crack down, Dr. Lee told KRON. 'They are not enforcing the laws, so it's the wild, wild west out there.' 'We're spread pretty thin,' acknowledges California Medical Board Director Dave Thornton told Contact 4 that Nuvo's been under scrutiny, but on the back burner because 'medispas are legal.'

Thorton says there is just one inspector for every 1,788 doctors. Nurses are allowed to perform laser treatments if a doctor supervises, and the doctor doesn't have to be on location. 'Whether the supervisor visits every day or once a month, we leave it under the discretion of a supervisor,' Thornton said. The law does require the owner of a clinic to be a doctor. Nuvo's owner isn't, but his California franchises are under a medical director's name. That's legal. Critics say it's borderline and they have a name for it: "doc in the box."