Clinics under probe over Chas still open; no doctor suspended

The Access Medical clinics under investigation will be suspended from the Community Health Assist Scheme from Oct 23.
The Access Medical clinics under investigation will be suspended from the Community Health Assist Scheme from Oct 23.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

All Access Medical clinics that will be suspended from the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) are still operating as normal, and none of the group's doctors has been suspended.

Access Medical, which manages 13 clinics around the island, will also use its own money to provide subsidies for all its Chas patients for the entire length of the suspension.

The subsidy will likely be around 50 per cent, said the group's founder and managing director Lim Yong Chin yesterday.

Dr Lim said that after audits from the Ministry of Health (MOH) in August last year, steps were taken to ensure claim compliance, such as rectifying "shortcomings" in IT infrastructure and re-educating staff and doctors on the correct way of making claims.

He added: "We have instituted a claims-checking process where every claim is checked by two people, apart from the person who enters the claim. So far, this has been working well for the past 12 months, with very much improved compliance with Chas guidelines."

The MOH said on Monday that audits of 10 Access Medical clinics "revealed severe non-compliance".

While the clinics claimed for government subsidies under Chas, there were doubts over whether all the treatments were provided.

 
 

The clinics will be suspended from Oct 23, and the MOH, which has called in the police, will be asking the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) to look into the behaviour of some doctors from these clinics.

The SMC serves as a watchdog for the medical profession here.

Dr Lim declined to reveal the number of Chas claims made through the group's 13 clinics on a monthly basis, as well as the types of Chas claims generally made, citing business confidentiality.

He added: "I have not received any information from any of my doctors about SMC queries."

He said Access Medical took care of more than 33,000 unique Chas patients in the past 12 months till September.

Dr Lim said this figure is about 5 per cent of all patients who used their Chas benefits in the same period the previous year. He added: "We are worried for their continuity of care and appeal to MOH to reconsider our suspension."

When approached, an MOH spokesman reiterated the ministry's findings of non-compliant claims through its audits.

She added: "Such severe non-compliances are a serious misuse of government subsidies and unsubstantiated drawdown of patients' annual Chas subsidy limits, for which we have suspended the clinics' Chas participation.

"We are not able to comment further on the details of this case, given the ongoing police investigations."

Once suspended, clinics cannot make Chas claims for their patients, but they can continue operating and offering their normal services.

The Access Medical clinics that will not be able to make Chas claims from Oct 23 are in Bedok South, Circuit Road, East Coast, Kim Keat, Marine Terrace, Toa Payoh, Whampoa, Jurong West, Redhill Close and Bukit Batok.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2018, with the headline 'Clinics under probe over Chas still open; no doctor suspended'. Print Edition | Subscribe