According to the Medical Registration Act, a complaints committee shall complete its inquiry not later than three months after the complaint or information is laid before it.
So how can the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) say that investigations by a complaints committee "usually take at least nine months" (Time taken to deal with complaint against doc 'not unusual'; July 4)?
While the Act allows inquiries to be extended owing to complexity of the matter, surely it can't be extended for over a year, let alone five years?
By not diligently following up with complaints, the SMC is creating a backlog for itself.
The delays also raise questions about the SMC's competence in handling complaints against doctors.
The SMC can work within the timeframe of three months by requiring doctors to respond in a timely manner, or risk suspension.
If a decision cannot be made based on the doctor's response, then other registered doctors in the same field could be consulted as jurors and given the same deadline to respond.
In this way, the three-month timeframe can be adhered to and the SMC need not spend money engaging medical experts, and its own registered doctors selected to act as jurors will be more aware of current issues that they might encounter in their work.
Early resolution of complaints is important, as it would not only allow the complainants to decide whether to go for mediation, but would also allow the insurers to proceed to recover the monies paid out for any improper medical procedures.
Chan Fook Koong