A doctor has been suspended for four months, censured and ordered to pay a fine of SGD12,000 for inappropriately prescribing medicine to a patient, according to the Singapore Medical Council (SMC).

Dr Chew Yew Meng Victor, 52, pleaded guilty to three charges of professional misconduct. He was also ordered to give a written undertaking to the council, and to bear all the costs and expenses of the proceedings.

Dr Chew came under investigation after the council received a complaint on 26 September 2012 – when he was a general practitioner at Canberra Medical Clinic (now renamed Canberra Medical Aesthetics) in Sembawang.

The patient's brother lodged the complaint, stating that Dr Chew was prescribing excessive benzodiazepines to the patient, who sought help for a respiratory infection, cough and insomnia, from the period of 3 November 2008 to 26 September 2012.

Multiple aggravating factors found upon investigations

Dr Chew was found to have prescribed an average of 1.9 tablets of diazepam 10mg a week – over 129 weeks – which "far exceeded" the limits imposed by the Ministry of Health.

He also failed to keep legible and sufficiently detailed medical records, and did not refer the patient to a psychiatrist "in a timely manner". This is a major breach, according to the SMC. Any psychiatrist or specialist the patient was referred to, would need the records to understand the medical history and prior treatment of the patient.

Dr Chew also continued prescribing benzodiazepines despite having suspicions that the patient had become addicted to the pills. He was also aware that the patient had a history of anxiety disorders and depression, which would be worsened by the use of benzodiazepines, remarked the SMC.

A disciplinary tribunal inquiry into the case was held on 15 February and 7 April this year, and found numerous aggravating factors such as prescriptions combining benzodiazepines and codeine-containing cough mixtures on 13 occasions, which breached guidelines. Dr Chew was also a very experienced doctor with 20 years of service.

He also did not contact the psychiatrist, which the patient claimed he was seeing, for verification or to discuss the management of the patient.

Several mitigating factors resulted in a four-month suspension

The judgement then took into consideration mitigating factors, such as Dr Chew's early plea of guilt and his good reputation in the medical profession.

Dr Chew also contributed to the underprivileged in society and good testimonials tendered on his behalf were also considered.

"We were also satisfied that Dr Chew was not motivated by financial gain in making the inappropriate medical prescriptions," the SMC added.

Dr Chew also pleaded guilty to the other accusation of not properly maintaining the patient's medical records and not referring the patient to a psychiatrist in a timely manner.

His suspension from medical practice began on 5 July and run until 4 November. MIMS

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