High Court quashes surgeon's conviction over not giving enough medical leave to foreign worker

High Court quashes surgeon's conviction over not giving enough medical leave to foreign worker

File photo of Supreme Court exterior

SINGAPORE: A hand surgeon was cleared by the High Court on Monday (May 27) of charges of professional misconduct over a case of inadequate medical leave given to a foreign worker with a finger injury.

Dr Looi Kok Poh had been found guilty of two charges by a disciplinary tribunal in May last year following disciplinary proceedings by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC).

SMC commenced proceedings after receiving a complaint from Jolovan Wham of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) in October 2011, alleging that Dr Looi had colluded with the patient's employer.

The doctor was handed a six-month suspension for failing to give adequate medical leave to his 32-year-old patient, an Indian national who worked as a welder in a shipyard, and for inappropriately certifying him as fit for light duties.

However, Dr Looi appealed against the conviction and sentence, while the SMC appealed against the sentence, asking for a two-year suspension instead.

In a written judgment released on Tuesday, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Appeal Judges Judith Prakash and Tay Yong Kwang set aside the convictions, saying that the SMC had failed to establish that Dr Looi had departed from the applicable standard of conduct.

The judges also found "no basis" that Dr Looi had been seriously negligent, dismissing SMC's appeal against sentence and setting aside all orders the tribunal had made.

PATIENT CRUSHED HIS FINGER

The patient had seen Dr Looi on Aug 7, 2011, after crushing a fingertip. Dr Looi performed the first stage of a two-stage surgery on his finger and the patient was hospitalised for a night.

Dr Looi left notes for West Point Hospital, where he worked, to discharge the patient the next day with one day of medical leave and seven days of light duties.

However, the patient reported feeling pain that night, rating a pain score of nine out of 10.

The next day, he was seen by another doctor who discharged the patient with Dr Looi's confirmation and gave him a medical certificate granting him two days' medical leave, which ended on that day itself.

No light duties were given, and Dr Looi saw the patient later that day and recorded that his wound was clear, scheduling him for a follow-up review in a few days.

However, the patient went to Singapore General Hospital on Aug 20, 2011, complaining of pain over the stitches. He was given medical leave for three days until his next review with Dr Looi.

When he met Dr Looi, he refused the doctor's offer of a week's medical leave, and returned to SGH on Sep 7, where he told the doctor that he did not want to be seen in the hospital due to "short MC", and claimed that he was "forced to go to work daily" by his employer and had to mark his attendance.

The second stage of his surgery was performed at SGH two days later and he was given hospitalisation leave, before returning to India.

Lawyers representing Dr Looi and the SMC will have to file submissions on costs within two weeks.

Source: CNA/ll

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