Recently, the Singapore Medical Council (‘Medical Council’) suspended a paediatrician of 23 years for three months for failing to diagnose a one-year-old boy with Kawasaki disease. In response, over 1,000 doctors petitioned to revoke the paediatrician’s suspension, expressing that the punishment was too harsh given that the missed diagnosis was due to human error, rather than negligence. This disease was highly uncommon, occurring only in 0.0325 per cent of children under the age of five here, and there was no test to confirm it. Further, the child in question did not have all the symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose as the clinical signs evolved over time.
Although the above case was disciplinary in nature, a civil action by the parents of the child against the paediatrician would be the classic example of a dispute that would best be resolved through mediation – an emotionally charged dispute where it is not clear that there was any wrongdoing. Engaging in mediation first would also have ensured confidentiality, and avoided public scrutiny, thus preserving reputations. Since 2014, 36 healthcare disputes have been mediated and many of these disputes have been successfully resolved. From responses in surveys, parties registered satisfaction with the mediation process as they had an opportunity to express their positions and interests, and explore issues. Where a settlement was reached, mediation clearly saved time and money. Healthcare disputes involve medical reports and medical experts, thus, by their nature are potentially costlier and may result in lengthier trials. The Courts have recognised this and implemented protocols to simplify the process. ADR, primarily mediation, is a key feature in these protocols.
SMC offers two mediation schemes through tie-ups with the Medical Council and MOH Holdings Pte Ltd. The former scheme is designed to resolve complaints against registered medical practitioners filed with the Medical Council’s Complaints Committee. Fees payable to SMC will be borne by the Medical Council. The latter scheme caters to disputes between patients and healthcare institutions and their employees. For mediations with a public healthcare institution, there is an administrative charge of $150 per party, and mediation is free for the first two hours. Thereafter, the mediation fee is $300 per hour. Charges for private healthcare institution mediations are slightly higher at $250 for the administrative charge and $550 for the mediation fee from the second hour onwards.
For more information on healthcare mediation, please visit: http://www.mediation.com.sg/business-services/industry-schemes/
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August 2017 Issue. For past issues, read more here.