Surgeon said 'light duties' appropriate, sending worker back to work day after surgery for broken collarbone

Dr Kevin Yip Man Hing certified that a worker, who fell from a one-storey height, was fit for "light duties" upon discharge as well as on two subsequent visits to review his condition.
Dr Kevin Yip Man Hing certified that a worker, who fell from a one-storey height, was fit for "light duties" upon discharge as well as on two subsequent visits to review his condition.PHOTO: DR KEVIN YIP

SINGAPORE - An orthopaedic surgeon appealed against his conviction of professional misconduct by a disciplinary tribunal for certifying a migrant worker fit for work the day after he had operated on him for a fractured collarbone.

Dr Kevin Yip Man Hing did not give any sick leave to the 47-year-old construction worker, apart from the two days that the patient spent in hospital.

Instead, he certified that the Chinese national was fit for "light duties" upon discharge as well as on two subsequent visits to review his condition.

At his appeal on Thursday (Jan 31) before the Court of Three Judges, Dr Yip argued through his lawyer, Mr Navin Joseph Lobo, that the patient had agreed to go back to work, and it was appropriate to give him light duties, as the benefits of being mobile early enabled rehabilitation to begin sooner.

The incident was investigated by a disciplinary tribunal following a complaint to the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) by migrant worker rights group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home).

It handed down a five-month suspension to Dr Yip, 57, last year after finding him guilty of professional misconduct. The tribunal found he had "failed to ensure that adequate sick leave was given to (the patient) in light of his condition and the nature of his occupation".

The SMC has also appealed against the sentence, arguing for a longer suspension of 18 months.

The worker was injured on July 7, 2011, when he fell from a one-storey height. He suffered a collarbone fracture, rib fractures and an injured wrist.

On the same day, Dr Yip, who has a private practice at the Gleneagles Medical Centre, carried out surgery on the fractured collarbone.

 
 
 

The operation stretched till the early hours of July 8 and the patient was discharged later that day.

Upon his discharge, Dr Yip certified him fit for light duties from July 9.

The worker saw Dr Yip again on July 11 and July 18 for post-surgical reviews, and was similarly certified fit for light duties.

The patient later sought medical attention at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).

During Dr Yip's disciplinary inquiry, several experts testified about the duration of medical leave that should be given.

The SMC's expert said he would have given six weeks of sick leave and that "a minimum of two weeks of sick leave should have been given at discharge with reassessment thereafter".

SMC's lawyer, Ms Chang Man Phing from WongPartnership, said the tribunal was correct to conclude that even though medical literature indicated that early mobilisation was beneficial, it did not mean that the patient should have received "zero post-operative sick leave and certification to return to light duties immediately".

Ms Chang argued that Dr Yip's lack of remorse, including omitting the rib fractures in his medical report and casting aspersions on the practice of doctors at TTSH, warranted a heavier sentence.

The court reserved judgment and will give its decision at a later date.