The review committee appointed by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) to look into disciplinary proceedings involving doctors is expected to finish its work in about six months, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Monday.
Replying in Parliament to a question from Dr Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), Mr Gan said the committee, made up of senior doctors and lawyers, will review existing frameworks for the proceedings and how they can be optimised and strengthened so that disciplinary matters are dealt with in a "just and expeditious" manner.
The SMC announced that it would set up this committee in October last year after the High Court overturned the council's guilty verdict against aesthetic doctor Low Chai Ling for using non-evidence-based aesthetic medicine. The court also released a 54-page judgment criticising the way Dr Low's disciplinary hearing had been carried out.
On Monday, Mr Gan said the disciplinary processes and requirements for doctors are set out in the Medical Registration Act (MRA). Disciplinary bodies like the Complaints Committee and disciplinary tribunals, which are obliged to comply with this law, carry out their proceedings and deliberations independently of the SMC council, he added.
Director of Medical Services and SMC registrar K. Satku wrote an open letter to all doctors in January to clarify the SMC's disciplinary processes, said Mr Gan, adding that healthcare professionals must play their part to ensure that patients receive "the best care possible".
In response to a supplementary question by Dr Janil on whether there is a need for external regulation of the medical profession, Mr Gan said the recent amendments to the MRA in 2010 should be given time to take effect. Among other changes, the Act now allows a legally trained person to chair a medical disciplinary hearing.