SINGAPORE: A traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) physician was fined S$3,000 after a patient complained that he was burned during treatment, the TCM Practitioners Board said in a press release on Thursday (Mar 7).
Mr Koh Chin Aik was also issued a censure and ordered to pay all costs and expenses related to the inquiry.
A patient had filed a complaint against Koh Chin Aik on Jun 6, 2017, alleging professional negligence. He said that he suffered burn injuries during acupuncture moxibustion therapy on May 13.
Acupuncture moxibustion involves the burning of moxa, which is made of the mugwort herb. A needle is inserted into an acupoint and the moxa on the tip is ignited, in order to generate heat in the area.
The release said that on the day of the incident, Koh had applied acupuncture needles on the patient’s left calf and asked his assistant to ignite the moxa on the tips of the needles.
He then instructed his assistant to watch over the therapy and left the room, but later called his assistant away to attend to another matter.
During this time, the patient was left unattended, and ashes from the moxa granules fell onto his calf, causing three burns.
The investigating committee found that Mr Koh had failed to exercise responsibility and appropriate care towards the complainant during the therapy.
It also said that he had failed to take “adequate precautions”, such as failing to take the necessary steps to prevent burns on the patient’s calf.
Additionally, the committee found that the treatment did not comply with the “appropriate and generally accepted methods of TCM treatment" as required in the practice's ethical code.
This amounted to professional negligence, said the release.
In their deliberations, the TCM Practitioners Board also took into consideration Mr Koh’s conduct during the investigation and hearing.
Koh “showed remorse for his conduct, admitted to his guilt promptly and was a first-time offender”, it said in the release. His contributions to the TCM community were also acknowledged.
“Nevertheless, these mitigating factors did not negate the seriousness of his breach,” said the board.
The board said its findings revealed that the mishaps could have been prevented with adequate care and safeguards.
“The Board would therefore urge all registered TCM practitioners to regularly review the adequacy of their practices to minimise the risk of burn incidents,” it said.
It also reminded practitioners to closely supervise their assistants and ensure that they are competent and adequately trained.