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    May 12, 2016

    Doc suspended over worker's injury case

    AN ORTHOPAEDIC surgeon at Raffles Hospital has been convicted of professional misconduct and suspended for six months, after the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) appealed against his acquittal over his management of an injured construction worker.

    Wong Him Choon, 51, gave his patient just two days of medical leave after he broke his right hand in a construction site accident - and certified him fit for light duties a day after his operation.

    A disciplinary tribunal which heard the case between June and September last year acquitted Dr Wong of professional misconduct. Both parties in the case agreed then that primary factors a doctor should consider before deciding on the type or duration of medical leave include the severity of the illness or injury, the amount of recovery time needed post-treatment, and nature of the patient's work.

    Nevertheless, the tribunal acquitted Dr Wong as there was no conclusive evidence to show he had failed to comply with the applicable standards of conduct in managing the patient. The SMC then filed an appeal against the decision to the Court of Three Judges.

    The court, however, decided that Dr Wong had considered "irrelevant factors" in issuing the medical certificate and had disregarded the patient's well-being.

    It overturned the tribunal's acquittal on Tuesday and ordered Dr Wong to be censured and suspended from practice for six months.

    He must also bear the SMC's costs for the tribunal's inquiry and the appeal.

    The accident happened on Sept 3, 2011. Dr Wong performed surgery early the next day and the patient was discharged afterwards.

    He issued the patient with a medical certificate to cover the hospitalisation from Sept 3 to 4. Dr Wong also certified that he was fit for light duties for a month from Sept 5.

    The doctor faced one charge of professional misconduct, for giving insufficient hospitalisation leave to the patient and finding him fit for light duties at work after surgery.

    The tribunal proceedings arose from a complaint from the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, which helps migrant workers.

    Its executive director Jolovan Wham said: "The complaint was made because of grave concerns that doctors might be in collusion with companies to discourage workers from taking medical leave, and filing work injury compensation claims, even though the workers were seriously injured."

    The group said it sees at least 15 workers a year who are not given sufficient medical leave.