SMC asks two doctors not to contact female patients outside of work

The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) said it has asked two doctors accused of taking advantage of vulnerable patients for sex to refrain from contacting their female patients outside of work.

A woman had complained to the SMC, the medical watchdog, in June 2018 that Dr Chan Herng Nieng, a psychiatrist, and Dr Julian Ong, a surgeon, had taken advantage of vulnerable female patients and colleagues "to satisfy their immoral desires".

Dr Ong sued the woman for defamation but lost his case on April 3. The district court judge said the woman's statements were justified, and awarded her costs.

In a statement yesterday, the SMC said: "When the judgment from the defamation suit was brought to the SMC's attention in April 2020, the SMC had acted immediately to secure signed undertakings from both Dr Chan and Dr Ong to refrain from contacting female patients for purposes outside the scope of their medical practice, pending the completion of the disciplinary process against them."

It is not stated when SMC took this action.

On Monday, the Parkway group withdrew Dr Ong's accreditation, so he can no longer use its four hospitals and facilities, pending the outcome of the complaint. The four hospitals are Gleneagles, Mount Elizabeth, Mount Elizabeth Novena and Parkway East.

A Straits Times article on April 16 had mentioned that the SMC had seven sex-related complaints against doctors in 2018, of which four had been carried over from 2017. Only one had been dealt with in 2018 while the other six were carried over to last year.

The SMC said: "Of the seven cases pertaining to sexual offences mentioned in the ST article, three have been concluded and four are ongoing. In the four that are ongoing, the SMC has taken precautionary measures to protect the patients."

It explained that it "has a standing policy to put in place safeguards to protect patients of doctors being investigated for sexual offences" as the "protection of patients is SMC's utmost priority". It added that its complaints committee is already investigating the complaint made against both Dr Chan and Dr Ong.

It also said it "continues to work closely with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and medical professional bodies to implement the recommendations made by the MOH work group to improve its disciplinary processes and to minimise delays in dealing with complaints".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2020, with the headline 'SMC asks two doctors not to contact female patients outside of work'. Print Edition | Subscribe