Doctor gets suspended penalty over discounts

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 June, 2006, 12:00am

An ophthalmologist was ordered to be struck off the general practitioners' list for three months yesterday after he was found guilty of offering discounts in an advertisement.

It was the harshest penalty the Medical Council had imposed on a doctor for such an offence, but it was suspended for two years - which means he will not be struck off unless he repeats his breach of the professional code of conduct.

Tse Wai-ip admitted advertising discounted cataract operations in Eastweek magazine on December 24, 2003.

He also admitted two other charges of canvassing, by acquiescing to the publication of feature articles in Sing Tao Daily and Eastweek magazine in which he talked about his ambition to open his own clinic in Central.

Those articles were ruled as promotion of his expertise because they included a profile and photographs of him in front of a mirror engraved with the words 'superior ophthalmologist'.

The ophthalmologists's lawyer, Harold Leong Kwok-on, urged the council to pass a lenient sentence as Dr Tse was inexperienced in dealing with reporters.

He also said Dr Tse was unaware of the advertisement.

But the council's chairwoman, Felice Lieh Mak, said the case was the most blatant involving promotion so far and there was a 'co-ordinated marketing strategy'.

She said the harsh sentence was necessary to deter future offences.

'The act to promote discounts in an advertisement takes the case over and above the normal cases and brings disgrace to the profession,' Professor Lieh Mak said.

'Since we see an increasing number of doctors promoting themselves in the media, we feel it necessary to send out a clear message that they have to be careful not to say anything which contravenes what is allowed by the professional code and conduct.'

In previous cases, warning letters have been issued and the offenders' names and offences published in the medical profession's gazette.

On the two canvassing charges, Dr Tse was ordered to be struck off for a month, which was suspended for a year, to run concurrently with the other penalty.