Eye doctor unfit to practise, says panel

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 February, 2009, 12:00am

The Medical Council health committee has suspended an eye specialist's licence for 12 months after finding him physically unfit to practise, the second such ruling in 10 years.

Health committee chairman James Chiu Shing-ping said that ophthalmologist Anthony Mok was suffering from a chronic illness and his medical treatment had affected his emotional state.

'He presented a medical report to the committee about his illness,' Dr Chiu said. 'He can come back to us if he wants to practise again in 12 months, but he indicated to us that he did not want to continue his medical practice.'

The committee acted on a complaint from a patient that Dr Mok's treatment had been unsatisfactory.

Association of Private Eye Doctors president Chow Pak-chin said Dr Mok was once an active member of the profession and had been popular with patients.

'He was an active practitioner who used to conduct many lasiks [laser treatments],' Dr Chow said. 'We have learned that he is now sick and we are concerned about his health.'

The council's health committee has investigated seven cases involving doctors' health problems in the past 10 years.

The last time it suspended a doctor for health reasons was in 1999. That involved a practitioner who had a history of substance abuse and who was suspended after the committee found that he was mentally unfit to practise.

However, the ruling was suspended for three years.

Dr Chiu, who was elected health committee chairman last month, said he wanted to explore alternative ways to help doctors with health problems.

'Apart from suspending a doctor, we would like to find other ways to help doctors in need, such as rehabilitation programmes,' Dr Chiu said. 'The Medical Council should not be providing such services ... we hope that such services will be available in the community.'

He said that in Australia, the Victorian Doctors Health Programme had been established to support doctors and medical students who had illnesses, including substance or alcohol abuse problems.

'In Victoria, about 10 per cent of doctors have abused substances or alcohol in their career,' Dr Chiu said. 'They have a high percentage there, and it may not be the situation in Hong Kong. But the support services there could be something we can learn from.'

However, a spokesman for the Patients Rights Association, Tim Pang Hung-cheong, called on the council to increase its transparency. He said the council should consider making health committee hearings public or at least publishing the outcome of investigations on its website.

'No one bothers to search the [government] gazette - it is too difficult to find information,' Mr Pang said. 'The council should be more active in informing the public about these cases.'

But former Medical Association president Choi Kin, who is running for the council's chairmanship next month, said the privacy of a sick doctor should be respected.

'Putting the information on the council website might be acceptable but issuing a press release is too much. A doctor with health problems is a personal matter and we should not treat him like someone who has committed misconduct.'

Council investigations

2008 The committee suspends the licence of ophthalmologist Anthony Mok for 12 months after finding him 'physically unfit' to practise.

2004 The committee cannot find any health problem in a doctor convicted of theft.

2003 The committee cannot identify any health problem in a doctor convicted of drink-driving.

2003 The committee takes no action concerning a doctor convicted of loitering because the doctor has allowed his practising certificate to lapse and is not a registered doctor at the time the committee reviews his case.

2003 The committee cannot find any health problem in a doctor who caused a nuisance by continually phoning another doctor.

1999 The committee fails to find any health problem in a doctor convicted of a criminal charge in court.

1999 The committee finds Dr Roderick Lo 'mentally unfit' to practise. Dr Lo admitted abusing the drug pethidine, a strong narcotic pain-killer. The council deregistered him permanently but the ruling was suspended for three years. He was allow to practise subject to two conditions - that he submit himself to a psychiatrist's oversight for three years and that he not possess, supply or prescribe dangerous drugs for three years.