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GP suspended for 4 months for botched liposuction that burned patient

SINGAPORE – A woman developed fluid-filled blisters on the back of her thighs a day after a liposuction procedure. But despite the alarm bells and multiple follow-up appointments, Dr Kevin Teh, a general practitioner who specialises in aesthetic treatments, merely tried treating the wounds with antibiotic cream.

GP suspended for 4 months for botched liposuction that burned patient

General practitioner Dr Kevin Teh, 40, practises at Singapore Lipo, Body & Face Centre. Photo: Docdoc.sg

SINGAPORE – A woman went for a liposuction with a general practitioner, but ended up at the Singapore General Hospital's (SGH) Burns Unit for a skin graft and was hospitalised for over two weeks. 

The woman developed fluid-filled blisters on the back of her thighs a day after a liposuction procedure by Dr Kevin Teh. But despite the alarm bells and multiple follow-up appointments in the days following the procedure in October 2010, Dr Teh merely tried treating the wounds with antibiotic cream. 

It wasn't until a week later on Oct 21, 2010, when Dr Teh visited the patient's home and found that she had developed a fever, swelling on her thighs and more redness and purple blotchiness around the edges of the blisters that she was brought to the SGH's Accident and Emergency department where she was admitted to the Burns Unit and scheduled to undergo skin graft surgery the next day. 

In a Disciplinary Tribunal held by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC), Dr Teh was also found to have failed to properly ensure that the sedation was safely and appropriately administered. It was found that he had administered more than the recommended dosage of Propofol — a drug used to relax a patient before and during anesthesia for surgery or other medical procedures. He was also not aware of the guidelines for safe sedation practice issued by the Academy of Medicine in Dec 2002, and thus failed to give supplemental oxygen to the patient during the sedation.

A complaint was made to the SMC on Sept 7, 2012. 

In a press statement today (Feb 11), the SMC said that there was “clear medical evidence” that Dr Teh should have referred the patient to a specialist “much earlier” when it had been observed that the condition of the wounds were not improving.

Dr Teh faced three charges for professional misconduct in relation to the treatment and management of the patient. For failing to refer a patient to a specialist sooner, and for failing to ensure safe and proper sedation, Dr Teh, 40, who practises at Singapore Lipo, Body & Face Centre at Novena Medical Centre, was found guilty and was suspended for four months. Dr Teh's suspension took effect from Jan 12 and will run through May 11 this year. He was also censured for professional misconduct for the vaser liposelection treatment he performed on Oct 14, 2010. 

On the third charge for failing to ensure proper and adequate documentation of the sedation given to the patient during the procedure, Dr Teh was acquitted. 

Two of the three plastic surgery experts in the tribunal agreed that they would both have referred the patient to a specialist Burns Centre by the second day.

On the sentencing, the SMC said that anything less than a suspension of four months would not be enough to register the seriousness of Dr Teh’s conduct, nor would it deter such lapses or preserve public confidence in the medical profession.

“This was particularly since the safety of the patient had been put at risk,” SMC added.

As part of the sentence, the disciplinary tribunal had also ordered that Dr Teh gives a written undertaking to the SMC that he will not engage in the conduct complained of and any similar conduct.

Dr Teh was also ordered to bear the costs and expenses of the proceedings, including the costs of the Council’s solicitors.

In a separate case, Dr Teh was fined S$10,000 and censured in 2014 for attempting to cover up a mistake after he administered a drug that his patient was allergic to. He then administered an anti-histamine to counteract any allergic reaction without first informing the patient, and changed the patient's case notes to reflect the patient's allergy.

 

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