WHEN Mr Eugene Cao took his infant daughter to a clinic in Boon Lay for a mild cold last Monday, he did not expect her to vomit after consuming a prescribed medicine.
The 33-year-old research fellow visited a polyclinic the next day for a second opinion, and was told that Fedac, the prescribed drug, was intended for those aged two years and older.
His daughter is only four months old. Infuriated, he returned to the Boon Lay clinic to seek an explanation, but its management denied any responsibility, saying that it was a locum, or part-time doctor, who had attended to his child. The clinic has no control over its locums’ practice methods, he was told.
Mr Cao said: “They (doctors) are medical professionals and people trust them with their health, so I think the clinic owes us an explanation.”
When my paper contacted the clinic, its medical director, Dr K. T. Teo, said that the clinic would bear responsibility for certain situations, such as if a nurse dispenses the wrong medication even though a doctor prescribed it correctly. But doctors, both full- and part-time, are expected to be responsible for their actions, said Dr Teo.
He added that the clinic has spoken to the doctor involved, Dr N. Ling. Dr Teo said Dr Ling had informed him that he has his “own formula” when prescribing medicine.
Whether or not Dr Ling wants to speak to Mr Cao is beyond the clinic’s control, added Dr Teo.
Lawyer Amolat Singh said: “The doctor is liable even if he is a locum. The patient’s family can seek recourse from the clinic as well, because the doctor was allowed to practise there.”
The case bears similarity to a high-profile one that took place three years ago in the United States, involving the children of actor Dennis Quaid. His 10-day-old twins’ lives were in danger after they were given two adult doses of a blood-thinning drug.
The Singapore Medical Council’s annual reports showed that doctors taken to task for excessive or inappropriate use of drugs dropped from 22 cases in 2008 to seven last year.
Although Mr Cao’s daughter is well now, he is still seeking an explanation. He said: “It’s been scary for me as I am a first-time parent.”