SINGAPORE — A doctor who failed to issue any medical leave to a construction worker apart from two days of hospitalisation leave after surgery to his broken collarbone will have his suspension period increased to eight months.
A disciplinary tribunal appointed by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) had last year found senior orthopaedic surgeon Kevin Yip Man Hing guilty of three charges of professional misconduct in his treatment of 47-year-old bricklayer Zhang Ru Lin and imposed a sentence of five months’ suspension on the errant doctor.
Among other things, the tribunal found that a patient with Zhang’s injuries should have been given six weeks of sick leave, or at least two weeks’ sick leave with reassessment thereafter.
It also found that Dr Yip’s failure to issue the sick leave was intentional and deliberate.
In addition to five months’ suspension, Dr Yip was also censured and ordered to give a written undertaking not to engage in similar conduct again. He was also ordered to pay costs for the inquiry.
Both Dr Yip and the SMC appealed against the sentence.
On Tuesday (23 April), the Court of Three Judges allowed the SMC’s appeal and increased the suspension period to eight months, which will take effect in four weeks’ time.
The court also upheld the disciplinary tribunal’s orders that Dr Yip be censured and give a written undertaking.
Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang, who delivered the judgement of the court, said, “In our view, the most aggravating factor in this case was Dr Yip’s complete disregard for the patient’s welfare and interest.
“This manifested itself throughout his post-operative treatment of the patient when he failed to consider the patient’s multiple serious injuries as significant enough for sick leave, and, perhaps most appallingly, when he failed to check on how the patient was coping with the light duties…despite claiming that he had prescribed the patient light duties as part of the post-operative rehabilitation regime for the patient.”
The Judge added, “The fact that Dr Yip acted with such callous disregard for the patient’s welfare in the face of the severity of the injuries that he had sustained was in our view a significantly aggravating factor.”
The court also comprised Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash and Justice Quentin Loh.
What happened to Zhang
On 7 July 2011, Zhang had a serious fall from a scaffolding platform at a construction site. The employee at Soon Tat Construction Engineering suffered several broken ribs, a broken right collarbone, a small cut to his head and a bruise to his wrist.
He was brought by his supervisor to Dr Yip at the Singapore Sports and Orthopaedic Clinic at Gleneagles Medical Centre.
Dr Yip operated on Zhang at about 11pm to fix the collarbone and the surgery ended just after midnight. Zhang was discharged later that day.
He was issued with hospitalisation leave only for those two days, and certified fit for light duties.
Zhang saw Dr Yip for a review on July 11 and a week later. On both occasions, Dr Yip again assessed Zhang to be able to do light duties.
The bricklayer was supposed to be reviewed by Dr Yip again on 25 July. However, Zhang went to the emergency department of Tan Tock Seng Hospital on 22 July for persistent giddiness, nausea and intense pain on the right lung.
He was hospitalised for a day and given hospitalisation leave for one week, with a referral to specialists.
Zhang later sought help from the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) for wage compensation issues. On 24 October 2011, the non-governmental organisation’s then executive director Jolovan Wham lodged a complaint with the SMC about Dr Yip not giving Zhang sick leave.
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