A doctor who issued dozens of either false or inflated receipts to his patients so they could make bigger insurance claims escaped with a suspended sentence from the Medical Council yesterday. Dr Wong Tak-lun, 66, who runs a clinic in Ngau Tau Kok, in Kwun Tong, Kowloon, was struck off the register for six months, but the sentence was suspended for two years. When Wong heard that the sentence had been suspended, he smiled in satisfaction and flashed a victory sign. Wong issued a total of 50 receipts to three women patients surnamed Yeung, Wong and Chan between October 2004 and June 2007, the council heard. Of those consultations, 41 had the fee inflated, or were for consultations which never occurred. The insurance company paid the patients about HK$50,000, of which HK$15,000 was proven to be paid on the false receipts. The Independent Commission Against Corruption began investigating the false claims in 2007. In Kwun Tong Court last year, the doctor was convicted and sentenced to 240 hours of community service on three counts of conspiracy to defraud. The defence counsel said yesterday that Wong completed his community service 'satisfactorily'. After the incidents, Wong paid the insurance company HK$50,000 and the payment was accepted by the court, the counsel said. Wong pleaded guilty in the council's disciplinary hearing yesterday. In mitigation, the defence counsel said Wong had made no personal financial gain from the offences, and committed them to help the women. 'The only possible advantage was receiving the patients' goodwill. But since the patients are long-standing, there was no need to generate goodwill like a doctor new to the profession,' his lawyer said. He said Wong knew all the women were in dire financial circumstances. Yeung was a single mother with two daughters, aged five and 11, and received Comprehensive Social Security Assistance payments. Chan had been a patient of Wong since childhood, and remained a patient even after she moved away from Ngau Tau Kok. She was also a single parent receiving welfare payments. Ms Wong was a relatively new patient who had three children. The defence counsel said she had big credit card bills and had to conceal her debts from her husband. She was referred to the doctor by Chan. 'The offences were committed in a silly attempt to help the three women,' he told the council. 'He is deeply sorry for what he has done.' Wong would charge his patients at half the fee if they were facing financial difficulties, the lawyer said. In one instance, he helped a patient's mother get a job. The lawyer also pointed out that Wong had served thousands of patients in Ngau Tau Kok for more than 35 years, and that striking him off the register would shut his clinic. He said the council should allow Wong, who graduated from the University of Hong Kong in 1968 and had opened his clinic in 1973, to 'depart his career with a degree of dignity'. The council said the case was serious as the doctor was convicted of an offence involving dishonesty. 'It is the ethical conduct rather than the [financial] gain which is of significance,' said council chairwoman, Professor Felice Lieh Mak, when she read out the sentence. The council considered Wong had shown 'genuine remorse', had a clear record and was 'fully co-operative' during the inquiry. But it refused to accept that Wong had committed the offences out of benevolence, as he had failed to provide evidence.