Eye surgeon who hid earnings suspended for three months

 Eye surgeon Marc Tay Tze-Hsin at the State Courts on Feb 26, 2014.
Eye surgeon Marc Tay Tze-Hsin at the State Courts on Feb 26, 2014. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A 55-year-old eye surgeon who hid nearly $450,000 in extra earnings from his employer has been suspended for three months.

Dr Marc Tay Tze-Hsin, a former national swimmer, worked as a consultant for Pacific Healthcare Specialist Services (PHSS) and was also a director. Under an agreement, he was to hand over all generated income to PHSS,which would pay him an annual gross remuneration of $396,000, coupled with certain bonuses.

In 2005, he agreed to become a visiting consultant for The Lasik Surgery Clinic (LSC), with the knowledge of his fellow directors at PHSS.

He entered into an agreement on behalf of PHSS for LSC to pay PHSS the fees for surgery he performed at LSC. But between December 2005 and December 2006, LSC paid Dr Tay fees which were concealed from PHSS. The total amount involved was $445,874.

He made full restitution of $376,214 in February 2009.

At a Singapore Medical Council (SMC) disciplinary tribunal inquiry on Feb 3, he pleaded guilty to three charges of having been convicted of offences for acts involving fraud or dishonesty, the SMC said on Tuesday (May 3). A fourth charge was taken into consideration for sentencing.

In mitigation, Dr Tay's lawyer said that the matter was "essentially a civil case involving a breach of Dr Tay's employment contract with PHSS". It " unfortunately turned into a criminal case" because the earnings were deemed to belong to PHSS as a matter of law.

However, the tribunal said that Dr Tay's offences were serious and "could not be characterised as a mere breach of an employment contract". The concealment of the payments received from LSC was made at the expense of PHSS. The total amount involved was also a substantial sum.

While the tribunal gave consideration to the circumstances that had given rise to the criminal offences in the first place, it also said that "any sentence short of a suspension would not adequately reflect the gravity of Dr Tay's offending conduct, which involved dishonesty".

Dr Tay was censured and required to give a written undertaking to the SMC that he would not engage in the same or similar conduct again. He was also ordered to pay the costs of and related to the inquiry.

His three-month suspension, the minimum suspension period handed out by the SMC, took effect on April 25 and will run to July 24.In February 2014, he wasconvicted in the State Courts - then known as the Subordinate Courts - of dishonest misappropriation, and was fined $30,000. He was also fined $2,000 for breaching the Companies Act.

Dr Tay is now with the LSC. Responding to queries from The Straits Times, a spokesman for the Singapore Medical Group (SMG), LSC's parent company, said that the suspension "is the final chapter to a case that has happened more than 10 years ago".

SMG added that the suspension "is in no way a representation of Dr Tay's clinical expertise and competency".