The Ministry of Manpower sent out an email reminder to 28,000 workplace safety and health officers telling them “not to influence doctors to give injured workers less sick leave than they need,” reported the Sunday Times on 21 July 2013.

According to the newspaper, this email was dated 11 July, which would be four days after the Sunday Times ran a front page story about a joint circular that had been sent to medical practitioners last month. See Doctors told to give injured workers enough leave.

The 11 July email reminder included these words:

“You should not request medical practitioners (to) prescribe less than the requisite length of medical sick leave or issue light duties instead in order to avoid incident reporting.”

There is suspicion that some employers do not want doctors to give their employees more than three consecutive days of outpatient medical leave, or more than 24 hours of hospitalisation leave, because these thresholds trigger mandatory reporting of workplace accidents.

The Sunday Times also approached the Singapore Contractors’ Association for comment. Its president, Ho Nyok Yong, was quoted as saying that the association

“. . .  is concerned about the recent government reminders. We will advise all our members to respect the professional judgement of doctors.”

(See also results of a TWC2 survey Broken bones but no medical leave.)

In an associated story, the Sunday Times highlighted costs for medical reports from an orthopaedic surgeon’s private clinic. Naming the surgeon to be Dr Kevin Yip  from the Singapore Sports and Orthopaedic Clinic at Gleneagles Medical Centre, it said that it had been shown copies of three invoices issued to Chinese workers for copies of “specialist medical report”. The charges were between $850 and $1,000, said the newspaper, which added:

Restructured hospitals charge between $160 and $200 for similar reports issued by their specialists.

The journalist was unsuccessful at getting a comment from Dr Yip, who

 . . . could not be reached for comment despite repeated e-mails and phone calls last week, and a visit to his clinic last Friday afternoon.

One of the three invoices shown to Sunday Times came from Transient Workers Count Too. It was in relation to construction worker Wang Cunbo who had been treated at this clinic. Another came through a law firm helping another Chinese worker get a medical report from the same clinic; the invoice from the clinic was for $1,016.50, for a “120-word report”. The third invoice that the Sunday Times saw came through Healthserve, which charged a Chinese worker $856 for a 160-word report.

Sunday Times quoted Healthserve executive director Tang Shin Yong saying that

. . . medical documents should be made more accessible to low-wage migrant workers. “These documents are records of their own medical condition and they should not be charged exorbitant fees,” he said.

“This is especially important as they usually need these documents to seek a second opinion or to file or reassess compensation claims.”

The Sunday Times noted that a recent judgement from the Court of Appeal upheld the Singapore Medical Council’s stance that there should be an “ethical limit” on fees.