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MOH looking into Singapore Medical Council ruling against psychiatrist who was fined S$50,000

SINGAPORE — The authorities are looking into a Singapore Medical Council (SMC) ruling against a psychiatrist who was fined S$50,000, after the decision sparked an outcry among doctors here.

The Ministry of Health has said it is looking into a Singapore Medical Council ruling against a psychiatrist, whose S$50,000 fine triggered an outcry and drew thousands of signatures on two petitions.

The Ministry of Health has said it is looking into a Singapore Medical Council ruling against a psychiatrist, whose S$50,000 fine triggered an outcry and drew thousands of signatures on two petitions.

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SINGAPORE — The authorities are looking into a Singapore Medical Council (SMC) ruling against a psychiatrist who was fined S$50,000, after the decision sparked an outcry among doctors here.   

More than 2,000 people, mostly doctors, had signed a petition that began on Thursday (March 7) in support of Dr Soo Shuenn Chiang of the National University Hospital (NUH) before it was taken down a day later for reasons still unknown.

Responding to TODAY’s queries late on Saturday night, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health (MOH) said it was aware of the petition.

“We are looking into the disciplinary tribunal’s judgement,” the spokesperson added.

A separate petition begun on Friday evening urging the SMC to consider the ruling’s impact on medical practice has garnered more than 7,000 signatures by Saturday night.

Dr Soo, who is the clinical director of the NUH’s department of psychological medicine, was fined $50,000 for failing to verify a caller’s identity before he wrote a memo referring a patient to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). The caller turned out to be the patient’s brother and not her husband as he had claimed.

In its grounds of decision released on Tuesday, the SMC’s disciplinary tribunal found the psychiatrist guilty of failing to maintain patient confidentiality.

The first petition backing Dr Soo, titled “Justice for Dr S”, gained ground quickly after it began on Thursday, drawing 2,026 signatures by 3.20pm on Friday. Later that day, however, the web link showed a non-existent page.

TODAY could not reach psychiatrist Ganesh Kudva, who started the petition, for comment on why it was taken offline, despite repeated attempts on Friday and Saturday.

Doctors who rallied behind Dr Soo had told TODAY that they felt the fine was overly harsh and that the psychiatrist had acted in good faith in protecting the patient.

THE CASE IN SHORT

On Jan 19, 2015, a female patient was admitted to the NUH for an overdose of a pain-relief drug.

She was noted to have a risk of self-harm, as she had a history of depression.

Two months after she was discharged, Dr Soo received a call from the woman’s brother, claiming she was suicidal and needed an assessment at the IMH.

Dr Soo did not check the caller’s identity by asking for his name, identity-card or contact numbers, and comparing these against the hospital’s records.

The memo he wrote contained her confidential medical information, and he instructed his clinic's staff member to give it to the caller, believing he was the patient’s husband.

The memo was addressed to ambulance crew or the police officer-in-charge, but the brother used it to support his application for a personal protection order against the patient. The Family Court granted the order.

The patient filed a complaint in August 2015 against Dr Soo for failing to verify the caller’s identity before issuing the memo.

Dr Soo’s lawyers argued it was an “honest oversight” during the course of seeing 17 patients that day.

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