SINGAPORE: A traditional chinese medicine practitioner has been fined S$5,000 and given a two-month suspension after a series of lapses, including treating a patient remotely for about three years, the TCM Practitioners Board said on Tuesday (Aug 6).
In a press release, the board said it received a complaint against Ms Foo Tiam Thay in March 2017, alleging that she had been treating the complainant's elder brother through remote consultations for three years.
The complainant said that Ms Foo would prescribe and dispense medication to the patient, who was intellectually challenged and suffered poor digestion and bowel issues, without adequate clinical assessment and examination.
Medical records showed that Ms Foo last saw the patient on Aug 24, 2014.
"There was no evidence of any face-to-face consultation or physical evaluation done by Ms Foo thereafter," said the board. "Ms Foo only spoke to the patient’s mother on a weekly basis over the phone to understand the patient’s medical condition and then proceeded with prescription of TCM medications for the patient."
The medicines were then mailed to the patient's home.
The patient's sister also accused Ms Foo of visiting their home once without prior consent to retrieve unconsumed medication. "In the course of the visit, Ms Foo complained to the patient's mother that the complainant should not have lodged the complaint to the Board," the release stated.
It was also revealed that during the course of the investigation, Ms Foo had produced patient records that did not comply with ethical guidelines.
An investigation committee found that Ms Foo had breached TCM regulations by administering medication to the patient in the absence of face-to-face consultation and clinical evaluation for an extended period of about three years.
She had also failed to keep proper medical records so as to enable proper aftercare and service for the patient should any other TCM or medical health practitioner take over.
"Ms Foo was aware that the patient had a history of sigmoid volvulus and could possibly relapse and result in intestinal blockage," the committee wrote in its findings.
"Despite having such knowledge, Ms Foo opted not to conduct any necessary and timely investigation to ascertain the patient’s medical condition and thus exposed the patient to significant risks and potential harm."
The committee added that Ms Foo had failed to respect the patient and his family by going to their home without prior consent and expressing her unhappiness over the patient’s sister’s decision to file a complaint.
In its recommendations, the committee noted that Ms Foo had been “apologetic and remorseful” and admitted her mistakes.
It also noted that the remote consultations were done at the request and approval of the patient’s mother and that there was insufficient evidence that Ms Foo’s treatments had harmed or injured the patient.
The complaint was also the first made against her.
In addition to the fine and suspension, Ms Foo has also been imposed a censure and required to provide a written undertaking declaring she will refrain from prescribing and dispensing TCM medication and/or TCM treatment without performing adequate clinical assessments of her patient's medical condition.