Nightingale director tries to squash probe

PHOTO: Nightingale director tries to squash probe

SINGAPORE - The nursing director of the home where an elderly patient was filmed being abused by staff has gone to court to stop a disciplinary probe against her.

Madam Tan Choo Waoh is facing an investigation over a separate case involving overtime rates for workers.

But she has applied for a judicial review to have it dropped, claiming that the Singapore Nursing Board has decided in advance that she is guilty.

The 65-year-old said that a few days before a disciplinary hearing was due to take place, the board sent her a document titled "The Submissions on Sentencing".

This indicated that it had prejudged the case, her lawyer argued in court documents.

Nightingale Nursing Home hit the headlines in 2011 after a video clip emerged showing a 77-year-old woman being slapped and thrown onto a bed.

It was fined $15,000 by a district judge for failing to ensure that its care met approved standards.

Then, in a separate case, Madam Tan was fined $12,000 for allowing contract staff to work overtime and failing to pay overtime rates. The board convened a complaints committee to investigate her.

This meant she faced the possibility of being deregistered as a nurse, suspended, fined or censured.

But before the hearing could take place last month, Madam Tan received the sentencing submissions document.

It alleged that she had failed to treat her staff fairly and taken advantage of them.

The document also suggested that she would have carried on doing so had the Manpower Ministry not become aware of her actions.

It claimed that her conduct had implications for the nursing profession and that she should be given punishments, including a two-month suspension.

Her lawyer, Mr Jaikanth Shankar of Drew & Napier, argued in court papers that the board's submissions showed it had already made up its mind that she was guilty of misconduct, even before the committee had completed its investigation.

Madam Tan also disputed its allegations about her conduct and claimed several things in the document were wrong or not borne out by evidence.

She argued that the whole point of the board's submissions was to tell the committee it had already found her guilty and she deserved to be punished.

At a committee hearing last month, the board denied the claims and countered that it was merely prosecuting the case through the submissions.

It added that it had not reached the stage where it had to deliberate on the matter.

The committee, which had a legal assessor present, decided to suspend the inquiry at Madam Tan's request until her High Court application to quash the investigation on the grounds of bias is settled.

Meanwhile, the board - which is represented by Rajah & Tann lawyer Rebecca Chew - is expected to file its defence against her court suit next week in the run-up to next month's hearing.

It declined to comment on Wednesday, deeming it "inappropriate" in the wake of the pending court case.

"Nurse Tan remains a registered nurse with the board," it added.

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