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    Jul 28, 2016

    Top court to get tough on errant doctors

    ERRANT doctors can expect to face deterrent sentences, the top court has warned, in explaining why it overturned a medical tribunal's decision in a professional misconduct case.

    The Court of Three Judges cited three relevant past cases involving errant doctors where the sentences were lenient and "should have in fact been longer".

    "Public interest considerations weigh heavily in imposing deterrent sentences on errant doctors who are found guilty of professional misconduct," said the court comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal (JA) Chao Hick Tin and Andrew Phang.

    "This court has in fact given fair notice of its intention to re-calibrate sentences across professional misconduct cases."

    JA Phang was writing on the court's behalf in judgment grounds released yesterday.

    Following an appeal by the Singapore Medical Council, the court had in May reversed the acquittal of Dr Wong Him Choon after finding that a disciplinary tribunal erred over his management of injured construction worker Fan Mao Bing.

    The court suspended the 51-year-old orthopaedic surgeon at Raffles Hospital for six months for professional misconduct and also ordered him to undertake not to repeat such conduct in future.

    Dr Wong gave Mr Fan just two days of medical leave on Sept 4, 2011 after surgery on his right hand and certified him fit for a month's light duties.

    But light duties were unavailable and when Mr Fan came to see him on Oct 5, Dr Wong backdated the medical leave to cover the period from Sept 6 to Nov 20, 2011.

    The court said this showed Dr Wong was trying to cover up his mistake of "failing to ensure that there were adequate conditions for rest and rehabilitation".

    The court agreed with the SMC that Dr Wong's main concern "was not the patient's welfare and interest" but "advancing the interests of the employer".

    Referring to what Dr Wong said the patient did, JA Phang added: "It should not be the case that a patient has to 'kneel and beg' for medical leave that he was in any case entitled to on proper clinical grounds."