Paediatrician suspended three months for failing to properly treat one-year-old boy

SINGAPORE - A paediatrician has been suspended three months for professional misconduct, after she failed to properly diagnose and treat a young patient for Kawasaki Disease.

This late diagnosis could have led to the child developing serious heart issues, said the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) in a statement on Tuesday (June 27).

The incident happened in February 2013, when a one-year-old was admitted to Gleneagles Hospital with a high fever and red eyes, among other symptoms. Dr Chia Foong Lin, who was practising at Chia Baby and Child Clinic but also on call for the hospital that night, diagnosed him as having a viral infection.

During the boy's four-day stay in hospital, Dr Chia considered Kawasaki Disease but dismissed the idea. It was only after the boy's parents took him to another hospital for a second opinion - three days after he was discharged from Gleneagles - that he was definitively diagnosed with the condition.

Kawasaki Disease is characterised by inflammation of the blood vessels, which usually affects children under four. Heart issues develop in up to a fifth of children with the condition, and may lead to heart disease or sudden death.

The SMC's disciplinary tribunal noted that while the diagnosis of Kawasaki Disease is "not straightforward", Dr Chia had not carried out tests which would have helped to either confirm or rule out the condition.

In addition, she did not discuss the matter with the patient's parents, so that they could make an informed treatment choice.

"Instead, she was content to continue managing the patient for viral fever when the clinical features clearly did not point to a simple case of viral infection," said the SMC in its statement on the case on Tuesday.

It added: "In view of the patient's symptoms and the significant risks of adverse and severe consequences resulting from a delayed or missed diagnosis of Kawasaki Disease, it would be reasonably expected of Dr Chia to order such tests during the course of the patient's hospitalisation."

However, the disciplinary tribunal also noted that Dr Chia had a clean record and that the case did not show an intentional departure from established standards. Dr Chia appealed against the sentence, but the appeal was dismissed.