Doc suspended over botched eye case

SMC says he did not properly diagnose or treat patient, whose vision is now impaired

A 59-year-old doctor has been suspended for three months for failing to adequately diagnose and treat a patient for a serious eye disease, leading her to suffer from vision problems.

The patient had consulted Dr Fong Wai Yin, a general practitioner at Nanyang Centre Clinic in Jurong West Street 92, on three occasions in March 2013 for red eyes, blurred vision and high pressure in her eyes. She had also found herself vomiting and having a severe and persistent headache.

However, Dr Fong, a GP since 1993, did not physically assess her for clarity of vision or properly assess her red eyes, the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) said yesterday.

He wrongly assumed that the patient had acute conjunctivitis, when she was later diagnosed by another doctor to have bilateral acute angle closure glaucoma, a serious disease which required immediate treatment.

Dr Fong did not refer her to an ophthalmologist in a specialist clinic or hospital for immediate assessment, and repeatedly told her there was no cause for alarm, though her condition remained unchanged even after the third consultation.

It was only about a week after the third consultation that the patient was diagnosed with the glaucoma at a hospital's glaucoma specialist clinic, after a second doctor she saw referred her to the clinic.

The SMC noted that the condition could have potentially led to a permanent loss of vision if left untreated or if there was an undue delay in treatment.

A complaint against Dr Fong was later lodged by the patient's son, and a disciplinary tribunal from the SMC held an inquiry into the complaint on July 25 this year.

The patient's son indicated in his complaint that due to the delay in his mother's diagnosis and treatment, it was not possible for her to recover her full vision. She now suffers from tunnel vision and is unable to see more than a few feet in front of her, he added.

Said the SMC: "This has affected her way of life as she is unable to take care of herself and requires assistance from caregivers in her daily routines."

Dr Fong pleaded guilty to three charges of professional misconduct for failing to: adequately document the patient's history in respect of her eye condition; physically assess the patient for the clarity of her vision and red eyes; refer her to a specialist or hospital for immediate and urgent assessment.

Besides the suspension, he was censured and ordered to give a written undertaking to the SMC that he will not repeat his mistakes or engage in similar conduct. He also had to pay the costs and expenses of the inquiry.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2016, with the headline 'Doc suspended over botched eye case'. Print Edition | Subscribe