Doctor jailed for stealing medicine

He tampered with appointment records, and took patients' prescriptions worth HK$4,000

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2013, 4:37am

A senior government doctor has been sentenced to nine months in jail for stealing more than HK$4,000 worth of prescription medicine and faking appointments.

Sham Man-wai, 56, had earlier been found guilty of nine charges of fraud, 12 of accessing a computer with dishonest intent and one of theft.

Magistrate Wong Sze-lai said in Fanling Court that as senior medical officer Sham should have acted as gatekeeper, but instead had stolen the drugs.

She dismissed an application for bail pending appeal, meaning that Sham, the father of two daughters aged seven and four, was immediately jailed.

The court heard that Sham had hidden six boxes of medicine obtained from the prescriptions of 102 patients and worth HK$4,123, stashing them under his desk at the Fanling Family Medicine Centre.

The drugs, believed to have been stockpiled between 2003 and 2010, were found when he was moved to a different office because of renovations.

In some cases he overprescribed medicine for patients and kept the excess.

In others, the patients received no drugs because Sham had collected them from the pharmacy himself and kept them for his personal use or gain.

Sham was also found to have tampered with the authority's records by booking and cancelling appointments, some within an hour of the time, without his patients' knowledge.

On the computer-related charges, Wong said Sham had acted "to achieve convenience for himself".

"His acts led to chaos and inaccurate information with the Hospital Authority's computer system," the magistrate said.

Wong dismissed a defence claim that the prosecution had delayed the legal process, with 21 months elapsing before charges were laid in November 2012.

Sham was sentenced to four months' jail on the fraud charges, six weeks for the computer charge and six months for theft.

Wong deducted a total of 10 weeks from the sentence, taking into account Sham's previous clean record and restitution paid for the medicines.

The magistrate said the jail terms for the three types of offences could not be served concurrently because of their "differences in nature, time, and the incidents from which they arose".

She added: "There are no special circumstances justifying a suspended sentence."

Sham, who had worked at the medical centre since 2002, has been suspended.

Earlier, the court was read a letter from Taiwanese-American Aids researcher Dr David Ho Da-I stating that he has "never doubted" Sham's integrity, and that his "compassion as a physician is apparent".

More than 20 other letters of support were read out.

Sham has practised as a doctor since 1982 after graduating from the University of Hong Kong.

He joined the Hospital Authority in 1999.

Lawyer Lawrence Lok Ying-kam SC, for Sham, told the court yesterday that the doctor was devoted to his career, offering help and care to his patients beyond working hours.

Even among the witnesses called by the prosecution, Sham was held in high esteem and considered by his patients as a caring man of solid character, his lawyer said.