Hospital doctor admits forging MCs in order to moonlight at clinic

Amir Hussain
Senior Reporter
Joel Arun Sursas, 28, pleaded guilty to one out of four charges of forgery and will be sentenced at a later date. (Photo: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A doctor issued himself with medical certificates (MCs) to absent himself from work at a hospital so that he could moonlight as a locum general practitioner, a court heard.

The MCs carried his signature but not his name, to deliberately mislead his employer into thinking that they had been issued by another doctor.

At the State Courts on Wednesday (17 April), Joel Arun Sursas, 28, pleaded guilty to one out of four charges of forgery. He admitted to the remaining counts, which will be considered for his sentencing at a later date.

Sursas has already been penalised by a Singapore Medical Council (SMC) disciplinary tribunal for his misdeeds under the Medical Registration Act. He was holding a temporary registration with the SMC when he committed the offences. Only those who hold a valid practising certificate and are fully registered with the SMC are allowed to work as a locum doctor.

Facts of the case

Sursas, who was employed by MOH Holdings, was granted temporary registration by the SMC on 2 May 2015. Among the conditions of the registration was that he work as a doctor only at places approved by the SMC, and nowhere else without SMC’s prior approval.

Between 5 May 2015 and 31 August 2015, Sursas was posted to the Accident and Emergency Department of a hospital.

Between 1 September 2015 and 4 January 2016, Sursas was posted to Changi General Hospital’s Diagnostic Radiology Department.

While working at CGH, he also worked as a locum doctor at Etern Medical Clinic on 47 occasions between 10 July 2015 and 11 December 2015. In total, he earned $13,000 from moonlighting.

On 20 November 2015, Sursas reported sick to his real workplace. But he worked as a locum at Etern from 6.30pm to 9.30pm, for which he was paid $95 an hour.

Five days later, Sursas forged an MC with the Etern letterhead, stating that he was unfit for work for one day on 20 November 2015.

He signed above the word “Locum” on the MC without stating his name, intending to create the false impression that the forged MC had been signed by another locum from Etern, Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Ben Mathias told District Judge Mathew Joseph.

Sursas later submitted the forged MC to his employer.

DPP Tan asked for a fine of not less than $8,000 while defence lawyer Lee Teck Leng asked for a fine of not more than $3,000.

The maximum punishment for forgery is up to four years’ jail along with a fine.

MOH Holdings terminated Sursas’ employment on 5 January 2016, while the SMC cancelled his registration the same day.

In October last year, the SMC’s disciplinary tribunal imposed a three-year suspension, along with a $15,000 fine and censured Sursas.

He was also ordered to give a written undertaking to the SMC not to engage in a similar conduct, and to pay the costs of the tribunal proceedings, including the costs of the SMC’s lawyers.

As Sursas did not have full registration, the tribunal noted in its grounds of decision last year that the effect of the three-year suspension was to send a message to the profession that dishonesty would be firmly dealt with.

More Singapore stories:

Ex-Keppel Shipyard staff jailed for taking over $740,000 in bribes over 14 years

PUB serves Tuaspring notice to take over desalination plant, terminate water purchase agreement

Daughter of woman left in vegetative state after brain operation sues NUH, head neurosurgeon

No more date stamping on passports of departing foreign travellers from 22 Apr: ICA

Tickets for opening month of The Bicentennial Experience available from 17 April