By Ng Wan Ching
THE $26 million bill that Dr Susan Lim charged for her medical services to a woman member of Brunei's royal family was eye-popping, to say the least.
That was for five months of services provided from Jan 15 to June 16, 2007.
But it appears that multi-million-dollar sums had been charged by Dr Lim and paid by the Brunei High Commission for several years.
The patient under the care of Dr Lim, a general surgeon in private practice, was Pengiran Anak Hajah Damit, the younger sister of Brunei's queen and a cousin of the sultan.
Dr Lim treated her for breast cancer from 2001 until she died in August 2007.
Documents filed in court provide details of the bills between 2004 and 2007, which total $40 million. Details of the charges for the earlier three years are not known.
The Bruneians paid all her bills, which she had submitted till March 27, 2007.
But after the patient died, Dr Lim was queried on the rest of the 2007 bill (from Jan 15 to June 16, 2007), which came up to $26 million. This is inclusive of GST, which was 5 per cent then.
She is now fighting to stop the decision of the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) to appoint a second disciplinary committee to investigate an accusation by the Health Ministry here that she overcharged her patient.
In the High Court on Wednesday, Senior Counsel Alvin Yeo, representing the SMC, cited the allegedly inflated bills to show there was a case for a new disciplinary committee.
Documents filed in court show that on the days for which services were rendered during this period, Dr Lim's charges per day allegedly ranged from $29,600 to $660,000 before GST.
Dr Tan Yew Oo, an oncologist at Gleneagles Cancer Centre who was an expert witness for the prosecution at the first disciplinary proceedings, said for non-procedural services, where the doctor does not perform procedures or surgery on the patient, fair daily professional fees of a senior practitioner may range from $10,000 to $15,000.
Procedural fees (for procedures and surgery) would carry a higher rate of $20,000 to $40,000.
For exceptional cases when a specialist is required to go beyond the call of duty, a rate of 50 per cent more than the norm may be justified.
He said that even if Dr Lim was given the benefit of her seniority, her daily professional fees appear to be completely out of range.
He said that even if Dr Lim's possible losses from not seeing her other patients were considered, her daily fees were still inordinately high.