Doctor suspended 3 months for not properly treating patient with eye disease

A posed photograph of a close up of an eye. 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.
A posed photograph of a close up of an eye. 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.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - 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, which led to her having vision problems.

The patient had consulted Dr Fong Wai Yin, a general practitioner (GP) at Nanyang Centre Clinic at Jurong West Street, on three occasions in March 2013 (March 13, 15 and 18) for red eyes and high pressure in her eyes, blurred vision as well as severe and persistent headache and vomiting.

However, Dr Fong, who has been a GP since 1993, did not carry out a physical assessment of the patient for visual acuity nor properly assessed her red eyes, the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) said in its Grounds of Decision on Thursday (Sept 15).

Dr Fong wrongly assumed that the patient had acute conjunctivitis, when in fact she was later discovered by another doctor to have bilateral acute angle closure glaucoma, which required immediate treatment.

He did not refer the patient to an ophthalmologist in a specialist clinic or hospital setting for immediate and urgent assessment, but instead repeatedly assured her that there was no cause for alarm, despite her complaints and her condition remaining unchanged even after the third consultation.

It was only on March 26 that the patient was diagnosed with another condition at a hospital's glaucoma specialist clinic.

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.

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

"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," SMC noted in its Grounds of Decision.

Dr Fong was found to have three charges of professional misconduct:

- Failing to adequately and comprehensively document the patient's history in respect of the condition of her eyes.

- Failing to carry out a physical assessment of the patient for visual acuity as well as her red eyes.

- Failure to provide a timely referral of the patient to a specialist or hospital setting for immediate and urgent assessment.

Besides his three-month suspension, which starts on Thursday (Sept 15) and ends on Dec 14, Dr Fong was also censured, had to give a written undertaking to the SMC that he will not engage in the conduct complained of or any similar conduct, as well as pay the costs and expenses of and incidental to the proceedings, including the costs of the solicitors to the SMC.