SMC panel to complete review 'in six months'

SINGAPORE - The review committee appointed by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) to look into doctors' disciplinary proceedings is expected to finish its work in about six months, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Monday.

The committee, made up of senior doctors and lawyers, will review existing frameworks for the proceedings and "optimise and strengthen" them, said Mr Gan in a reply to Dr Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC).

The aim is for disciplinary matters to be dealt with in a "just and expeditious manner", he added.

The SMC said it would set up the committee last October after the High Court overturned its guilty verdict against aesthetic doctor Low Chai Ling for using medicine whose effectiveness has not been scientifically proven.

The court also released a 54-page judgment criticising the way Dr Low's disciplinary hearing had been carried out.

On Monday, Mr Gan said the disciplinary processes and requirements for doctors are set out in the Medical Registration Act.

Organisations like the Complaints Committee and disciplinary tribunals must comply with the Act and they carry out their proceedings and deliberations independently of the SMC council, he said.

Director of Medical Services and SMC registrar K. Satku wrote to all doctors last month to clarify the SMC's disciplinary processes, said Mr Gan, adding that health-care professionals must play their part to ensure patients receive "the best care possible".

Dr Janil also asked Mr Gan for his views on the balance between internal and external regulation of the medical profession.

Replying, Mr Gan said the Act was amended in 2010 to include more external bodies. For instance, a legally trained person can now chair a medical disciplinary hearing.

But the changes will need time to take effect, he added, as many current cases began before the change in the law and so, they have to be heard under the old framework.

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