Medical council defends tribunal's judgment

The Singapore Medical Council has defended the judgment of its disciplinary tribunal in suspending paediatrician Chia Foong Lin for three months for failing to diagnose a child with the rare Kawasaki disease, and said the decision of the Court of Three Judges is final.

The disease can cause significant heart problems.

It told The Straits Times that Dr Chia, a specialist with 23 years of experience, had "at least three occasions of serious lapses" involving the patient.

The first was when she failed to consider the possibility of Kawasaki though the child, who was a year old, had had a fever for five days, a maculopapular rash, which is a combination of both flat and raised rash, conjunctivitis and red lips.

The second lapse was to discharge the child while he still had a fever. The third was when she reviewed him two days after discharge, and retained her diagnosis of a viral fever even though he had had a fever the preceding two nights.

As a result, Dr Chia "fell short of the reasonable standard of due care and attention expected of her". Her appeal to the Court of Three Judges also failed.

In upholding the disciplinary tribunal's decision, the court had said: "It is crucial for a paediatrician to maintain a high index of suspicion in relation to KD."

It added: "If she had kept an open mind and maintained a proper appreciation of the symptoms related to KD or incomplete KD, and not been consumed by her own initial diagnosis of viral fever, she would not have failed to undertake the requisite tests to exclude KD.

"It was not simply an error of judgment but a serious oversight."

As to the petition by the doctors, the SMC said under the Medical Registration Act, "there is no appealing the High Court's decision, and therefore, the disciplinary tribunal cannot consider withdrawing the order of suspension".

Salma Khalik

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2017, with the headline 'Medical council defends tribunal's judgment'. Print Edition | Subscribe