HC Surgical says none of Dr Julian Ong's patients switched doctors after knowing of complaint

Dr Julian Ong will now consult the majority of his patients at HC Surgical Specialists heartland centres, but use the facilities at the alternative hospital for inpatients, if necessary. PHOTO: DRJULIANONG.SG

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - TO date, none of surgeon Julian Ong's patients have decided to consult with another doctor after being informed by him of the matters alluded to in a Singapore Medical Council (SMC) complaint, HC Surgical Specialists (HCSS) said in a filing late Monday night (April 27).

A woman had lodged the complaint in June 2018 against the surgeon, whose endoscopy clinic is 70 per cent owned by HCSS, claiming that Dr Ong and another specialist - who is not part of the HCSS group - had colluded to have sex with "vulnerable" female patients.

The woman also forwarded the complaint to other doctors, prompting Dr Ong to file a defamation lawsuit against her. He lost the suit in early April this year.

Following news reports of the failed suit, HCSS announced that Dr Ong will inform all his patients of the matters alluded to in the SMC complaint before any consultation. He also must obtain the consent of each patient to act as their physician, except for any emergency consultations.

On Monday, the group also noted that none of its doctors have been asked by their patients about Dr Ong.

It was responding to the Singapore Exchange's (SGX) query about whether the board had considered the impact of the ongoing SMC investigation and the Parkway Group suspension on HCSS's reputation and patients.

"The company wishes to emphasise its position that it will not approve of misconduct in a professional setting, which must be balanced by allowing due process to run its course," HCSS added.

HCSS also disclosed on Monday that Dr Ong was called up by the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) on April 22, to serve as a doctor in respect of assistance during the Covid-19 outbreak from April 27 to May 17.

The Business Times has reached out to Mindef for comment.

Last week, the company said Dr Ong is allowed to continue practising at its heartland centres, after Parkway suspended his accreditation and clinical privileges at Mount Elizabeth Novena, Mount Elizabeth, Gleneagles and Parkway East Hospitals from April 20 until the SMC complaint is dismissed.

HCSS on Monday said that Dr Ong has practised and used facilities at the heartland centres since he joined the group in 2017, "without any adverse incidents".

The Parkway suspension indicates that Dr Ong cannot use the facilities in those hospitals, although he is still able to practise from his clinic at Mount Elizabeth Novena. He has, however, designated an alternative hospital to be his institution of practice, in line with the Ministry of Health's restrictions during the Covid-19 situation whereby doctors are to practise only in one hospital instead of multiple hospitals.

Dr Ong will now consult the majority of his patients at HCSS's heartland centres, but use the facilities at the alternative hospital for inpatients, if necessary.

"The board would like to reiterate that Dr Ong is not prevented from carrying out his medical practice," it said.

The bulk of the company's replies to SGX on Monday reiterated its previous responses from last week, including that it was "impractical" to further investigate the surgeon before the SMC had provided its findings on the complaint. HCSS also said previously that it was aware of the complaint when it raised its stake in his practice.

Shares of HCSS dropped 0.5 cent or 1.4 per cent to close at 36.5 cents on Monday, before the bourse filing was made.

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