SINGAPORE: A paediatrician has been suspended for three months for failing to diagnose a one-year-old boy with Kawasaki disease.
As a result of the late diagnosis, the boy was exposed to the possibility of developing severe cardiac complications, the Singapore Medical Council said in a statement on Tuesday (Jun 27).
Dr Chia Foong Lin did not discuss the possibility of Kawasaki disease with the boy's parents despite having considered that he could have it, according to a disciplinary tribunal appointed by the SMC.
"Instead, she was content to continue managing the patient for viral fever when the clinical features clearly did not point to a simple case of viral infection," the SMC added.
Kawasaki disease is characterised by inflammation of the blood vessels. Symptoms include high fever for at least five days, conjunctivitis, and dry red lips, which the boy displayed, according to the inquiry.
Dr Chia, 56, who at the time of the incident in 2013 was practising at Chia Baby and Child Clinic at Clementi, was on call at Gleneagles Hospital when the boy was admitted. From Feb 25 to Mar 3 in 2013, Dr Chia repeatedly diagnosed him with a viral infection.
It was only suspected that he had Kawasaki disease when he was taken to another hospital for a second opinion.
SUPPORTIVE TESTS NOT ORDERED
The disciplinary tribunal agreed with SMC’s lawyers that Kawasaki disease was a "relatively common and potentially life-threatening" childhood disease but Dr Chia failed to pick up on its symptoms.
Dr Chia also did not order tests that could have supported the diagnosis of the disease, SMC noted. "The disciplinary tribunal was of the view that such a failure amounted to a serious negligence on the part of Dr Chia," it said.
However, the tribunal acknowledged that the diagnosis of the disease is not straightforward. In imposing the penalty on Dr Chia, the disciplinary tribunal noted that she had an unblemished record and that the case did not show an intentional departure from established standards. However, it dismissed an appeal from Dr Chia against the sentence.