Coronavirus: Healthcare staff

Doc who shared his recovery story had failed to go for mandatory tests

A doctor whose account of his home recovery journey from Covid-19 went viral had failed to comply with the rostered routine testing (RRT) that is mandatory for healthcare workers.

Dr Lai Kah Weng, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Island Orthopaedic Consultants at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, had recovered at home from Sept 28 to last Friday after developing a runny nose and mild fever on Sept 27.

His post on Facebook last Friday was widely shared, and The Straits Times also reported on it.

Island Orthopaedic Consultants is under the Healthway Medical group, and Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital is part of IHH Singapore's hospitals. A Healthway Medical spokesman said yesterday that it takes a very serious view of the matter and has convened a board of inquiry to investigate it.

After the story was published, three doctors contacted The Straits Times to say that IHH Singapore had revoked Dr Lai's licence with the group due to his failure to comply with RRT using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for Covid-19.

This means Dr Lai cannot admit his patients to any of IHH's hospitals and is not allowed access to its facilities for surgery, for example.

A spokesman for IHH confirmed that the licence had been revoked at all four of its hospitals, but declined to give more details.

Confirming that the allegations were true, Dr Lai told ST that he had not gone for his RRT due to an ear, nose and throat medical condition which makes the nasopharyngeal swabs needed for PCR very painful and causes his nose to bleed.

He said he had gone for the first PCR swab when it was mandated for healthcare workers to do so. But he did not go for subsequent ones.

RRT takes place every two weeks for healthcare workers.

His failure to do so was discovered by the hospital after he tested positive for Covid-19 on Sept 28, Dr Lai added.

"This is not an excuse for not doing the PCR test," he said.

"What I should have done better was to inform the management about my condition so that they can put in place alternative Covid-19 test arrangements."

He added that the fear and stigma of testing positive for Covid-19 contributed to his actions, and that this prompted him to speak about his home recovery journey on social media.

In the Facebook post, he had said that after developing symptoms on Sept 27, he isolated himself from his family and took an antigen rapid test (ART), which was negative.

When the flu-like symptoms persisted, he stayed home, then went to a neighbourhood GP, where an ART was positive and a PCR test confirmed the infection.

He added in the post that he wanted to share his experience in the hope of destigmatising Covid-19 as a severe disease.

Dr Lai, who is vaccinated, said that when rules changed and healthcare workers had to take a self-administered ART, which must be supervised by trained staff, he booked his test but had become infected with Covid-19 before he could get it done.

Under the fast and easy testing regime, a regular ART is taken once every seven days.

Dr Lai is appealing against the revocation of his licence with IHH.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2021, with the headline 'Doc who shared his recovery story had failed to go for mandatory tests'. Subscribe