TCM practitioner couple suspended after causing 3rd-degree burns, illegal insertions of surgical threads

SINGAPORE - Two traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners have been suspended for professional negligence and misconduct after a customer had to undergo surgical operations for neck pains and third-degree burns.

The TCM Practitioners Board said in a statement on Friday (Jan 31) that it had found registered practitioners Joseph Yap Kwok Ann and Xia Rong Rong guilty of professional misconduct and negligence, and improper conduct and actions under the TCM Practitioners Act.

The husband and wife, who both work at Annie Tiang TCM in East Coast Road, were suspended for 30 months and nine months, respectively.

The suspensions started from Dec 27, 2019. The couple were also issued with letters of censure and asked to provide written undertakings to the board stating that they would not commit similar breaches again.

They were also told to foot the bill for the inquiry and proceedings against them.

The couple were penalised after a customer filed a complaint through statutory declaration against the two practitioners in October 2016.

Mr Yap had inserted surgical threads in various parts of the complainant's body some time in August or September 2014, telling her that they would dissolve in one to two days.

But the threads did not dissolve even after several months, resulting in neck pains for the complainant. She eventually got the 1cm threads removed by an orthopaedic surgeon.

The insertion of surgical thread under the skin is not an approved method of TCM treatment in Singapore and does not fall within the scope of TCM as defined under the TCM Practitioners Act.

Mr Yap had also tasked Madam Xia to continue TCM care for the same customer when he went overseas.

However, Madam Xia instructed a clinic assistant to perform moxibustion on the complainant's knees instead of doing it herself, without monitoring or supervising it closely. Moxibustion involves the burning of herbs near the skin.

When the customer complained about extreme pain during the treatment, she was told to tolerate it and that the pain would subside shortly.

When she contacted Madam Xia and Mr Yap after developing blisters that did not subside, she was told the symptoms were normal and that it was a "positive sign of toxins being expelled from her body".

She was later hospitalised for a month for third-degree burns, and underwent skin grafting surgery.

In its statement, the TCM Practitioners Board said it takes a serious view of any transgressions of the ethical code and guidelines for TCM practitioners.

"Safety should always be the first and foremost consideration. We advise registered TCM practitioners to put in place proper safeguards to avert the risks of injuries caused to patients and to use only appropriate and accepted methods."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.