Dentist suspended for making false claims

Dr Steven Ang Kiam Hau has been suspended for 12 months, starting May 11, as well as fined $25,000, censured and required to pay the cost of the hearing.
Dr Steven Ang Kiam Hau has been suspended for 12 months, starting May 11, as well as fined $25,000, censured and required to pay the cost of the hearing.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

His conduct was dishonest even if he'd filed the Medisave claims to help patient cover costs, says disciplinary panel

A dentist will be suspended for one year for submitting false Medisave claims to cover the cost of a patient's dental implants.

The Singapore Dental Council (SDC) said this is the first case "involving deception to obtain unauthorised Medisave withdrawals".

The woman had seen Dr Steven Ang Kiam Hau of The Smile Division Dental Surgeons@Orchard Pte Ltd in 2014.

He recommended four implants for her which would have cost $22,100. Medisave would not have covered the total cost, so she suggested that he make more claims against her husband's Medisave Account to cover the difference, said Dr Ang.

But two months after consulting him, the woman changed her mind about the implants. Dr Ang then returned the money he had claimed from Medisave to the couple, he said.

But the woman then made a complaint about him to SDC in December 2014, which was to eventually lead to his suspension.

The disciplinary committee said it was evident that Dr Ang "had wilfully elected to shun his duty as an approved medical practitioner under the Medisave scheme in preference to assisting E (the patient) to defraud the CPF Board".

Dr Ang said he made the false claims only because he wanted to help the woman. He claimed to have performed 11 implants on her and 11 on her husband between Aug 15 and Sept 30, 2014.

But an audit by the Ministry of Health, which SDC said was "tedious and involves substantial resources", found no clinical notes to support his claim of having done 22 implants.

Even though the suggestion to make the false claims might have come from the patient, and he had returned the money, SDC's disciplinary committee said Dr Ang's conduct was dishonest and merited suspension.

It said: "The Medisave scheme relies on the honesty and integrity of approved medical practitioners to make accurate and genuine claims."

Dentists, it said, are "gatekeepers" to the scheme that allows patients to withdraw money for approved treatment.

It added that it is difficult to detect such fraudulent claims.

Shortly before the disciplinary hearing on April 4 this year, Dr Ang pleaded guilty to the four charges.

His lawyer said in mitigation that Dr Ang had been altruistic, had not harmed the patient and had made full restitution to the patient "prior to her complaint being lodged".

The SDC's counsel asked for a 12-month suspension and a fine of $25,000, given the dishonesty involved.

The disciplinary committee said Dr Ang should have counselled the patient on the need to top up the amount that could not be claimed from Medisave.

It added that it was evident that Dr Ang "had wilfully elected to shun his duty as an approved medical practitioner under the Medisave scheme in preference to assisting E (the patient) to defraud the CPF Board".

Such "deplorable" conduct undermines the standing of the dental profession, and a "strong signal must be sent", the committee said.

It suspended him for 12 months starting May 11, fined him $25,000, censured him and required him to pay the cost of the hearing.

Dr Ang is one of three dentists at the Smile clinic who, together with the company's manager, were charged last year with cheating the CPF Board by submitting multiple fraudulent Medisave claims.

Where Dr Ang is concerned, the charge is for an amount totalling $434,241. The case has not been heard in court yet.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2018, with the headline 'Dentist suspended for making false claims'. Print Edition | Subscribe