Doctor who pronounced migrant construction fit for duty one day after surgery appeals conviction

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

Dr. Kevin Yip Man Hing, an orthopedic surgeon performed surgery on the collarbone of a migrant construction worker in July of 2011. The doctor, who practices medicine at Gleneagles Medical Centre, then pronounced the man fit for ‘light duties’ after his 2-day hospital stay, and did not grant him any additional sick leave. He was found guilty of professional misconduct but is now appealing his conviction.

Though a disciplinary tribunal passed sentence on the doctor, Yip presented an appeal before the Court of Three Judges on Thursday, January 31. Represented by his lawyer, Navin Joseph Lobo, Yip claimed that the patient was agreeable to return to work immediately and that he was right to give the migrant worker, a Chinese national, light duties after he left the hospital as this would actually keep him mobile, which would hasten the schedule of his rehabilitation.

The worker had fallen from one story while at work on July 7, 2011, which resulted in a fractured collarbone and ribs, and as well as injuring his wrist. Yip operated on the worker’s collarbone later that day, a surgery that lasted until the next day.

The man was discharged from the hospital on July 8 and was certified by Yip for light duties by July 9.

He went back to Yip for check-ups on both July 11 and 18, and on both occasions was certified by the doctor fit for light duties again.

However, the worker needed to go to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) for another check-up afterward.

Migrant worker rights group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) filed a complaint concerning the man’s case to the Singapore Medical Council (SMC), whereupon a disciplinary tribunal was convened to investigate the report.

Last year, the tribunal gave Yip a suspension of five months, saying 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 itself also found the penalty to be too short and filed an appeal asking for an 18-month suspension.

Medical experts who testified at Yip’s disciplinary hearing said that the worker should have been given at least 2 weeks of sick leave, with another medical evaluation done after that period.

The lawyer for SMC, Chang Man Phing, said that even if it was right for the patient to move about at once, this did not exclude the need for “zero post-operative sick leave.” The lawyer also pointed out Yip’s alleged lack of remorse, as well as the fact that he had neglected to indicate that the worker had suffered rib fractures in the medical report Yip filed, meant that the doctor was deserving on a longer suspension.

The court will decide on the case at a later date.