SINGAPORE: The former managing director of The Smile Division Dental Group was struck off from the Register of Dentists on Monday (Dec 5) after he took part in a cheating scheme that depleted his patients’ MediSave accounts.
Cecil Goh Chin Chye was among four employees who were charged in relation to the scheme. He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in August last year, after being convicted of 36 charges, with 214 other charges taken into consideration.
The 36 charges comprise 29 cheating offences, six forgery charges and a criminal conspiracy charge.
The other parties in the scheme were Dr Daniel Liew Yaoxiang, Dr Steven Ang Kiam Hau – two dentists who worked in the dental group – and Yeo Meow Koon, the practice manager at the time.
As a result of the scheme, Goh’s patient’s MediSave savings were “prematurely and substantially depleted”, said the disciplinary committee in its grounds of decision.
“The disciplinary committee noted that the nature and extent of the respondent’s (Goh’s) dishonesty was grave because it was calculated and carried out repeatedly over a long period of time and primarily for financial gain,” the Singapore Dental Council said on Tuesday.
Goh was a dental surgeon who at the time of the offences was the managing director of The Smile Division Dental Group (TSD).
TSD is a group of dental surgery clinics, in which each operated as a separate limited exempt private company. Between 2011 and 2013, it had nine clinics in various locations and about 30 dentists working at these clinics.
These locations include Hougang, Choa Chu Kang, Clementi, Orchard and Yishun, its head office.
Ang entered into an agreement with the group where he would be entitled to a portion of the net fees received from patients on whom he performed surgeries.
Liew practised mainly at the Hougang Clinic, and received 50 per cent of the balance after the costs of the surgery were deducted.
In 2009, Ang conceived a scheme to make dishonest MediSave claims at the Lucky Plaza clinic. He would certify that dental procedures had been performed on patients on numerous dates, when in fact these procedures were performed on a single day or at most, over two days, said the disciplinary committee.
The claims would be submitted via MediClaim to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board on the basis that the procedures were performed on multiple days.
The objectives of the cheating scheme were to make use of as much MediSave funds as possible to cover the fees of the procedures and circumvent the daily withdrawal limits for day surgery imposed by the Ministry of Health (MOH).
In 2011, Goh became aware that Ang was carrying out the scheme by splitting up the claims on behalf of his patients.
This enabled the patients who were previously unable to afford or unwilling to pay for the dental implants to pay for the full treatment by using more MediSave funds than was permitted under CPF regulations.
“However, this had the effect of depleting the Medisave savings of the patients,” said the disciplinary committee.
When Goh discovered that Ang had carried out the scheme, he did not stop Ang even though he felt that the splitting of claims to maximise MediSave withdrawals was not right.
Instead, he decided to “jump onto the bandwagon” to defraud the CPF Board and adopted and implemented the scheme at the Yishun clinic, where he worked. He also entered into a conspiracy with Ang and Liew to carry out the scheme.
“The three of them thought that as long as the splitting of claims was kept low profile, nothing would happen,” said the committee.
The submitting of claims was done centrally at the Yishun head office either by Yeo, the practice manager, or under Yeo’s supervision.
The dishonest MediSave claims made on behalf of 10 of Goh’s patients amounted to S$316,900.
Goh agreed the scheme could continue at the Lucky Plaza clinic, between Ang and himself.
Once the money was disbursed by the CPF Board, he would arrange for the money to be split between the dental group and Ang.
Between 2011 and 2013, Ang made 283 dishonest MediSave claims from 13 patients, amounting to S$434,241.
After Goh was charged with the cheating offences, he contacted a sales director for a company that supplied the dental group with implant supplies.
He requested the director to provide backdated invoices relating to surgical procedures performed by Liew and Ang for 2011 and 2013.
The forged invoices were intended to support Goh’s assertion that the dental group made a loss in respect of patients treated by Liew and Ang.
These invoices were furnished to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) as part of written representations during the plea-bargaining process, to induce the AGC to not object to Goh’s assertion in his mitigation that the dental group made a loss.
The lawyer for Goh sought the maximum three years’ suspension instead of a striking off, adding that his degree of culpability and extent of dishonesty was lower than Ang and Liew.
She added that her client was a first-time offender, and that he has been imprisoned and will have to “live with the stigma”, adding that there was no risk of recidivism as Goh’s approval as an approved medical practitioner under CPF regulations was revoked on Aug 29, 2021.
She also argued that he has made restitution and pleaded guilty in the state courts.
The disciplinary committee said it was of the view that Goh’s culpability was not lower, but “at least equal to, if not greater than” that of Ang’s.
“Moreover, the nature and extent of the respondent’s dishonesty was grave because it was calculated and carried out repeatedly over a long period of time and primarily for financial gain,” said the committee.
“It is morally reprehensible, revealing a serious defect in his character and integrity. The respondent’s dishonesty and convictions clearly have brought the dental profession into disrepute.”
It cited the district judge’s notes in that Goh’s attempts to reduce his culpability during his mitigation plea suggest that “he is not genuinely remorseful for having committed these offences”.
The committee said that even if Goh did not make restitution on his own accord, the law would have compelled him to do so. It said that it did not place much weight on this mitigating factor.
It added that there was no merit in the mitigating factors that he has been imprisoned and would have to “live with the stigma”.
“Stigma is also par for the course and is not a mitigating factor,” said the committee.
Besides being struck off, Goh will also have to pay the full costs and expenses, including the costs of the solicitors to the Singapore Dental Council and the cost incurred by the council for engaging the legal assessor.
“The Singapore Dental Council reminds all dental professionals that it takes a serious view of their conduct and ethics,” it said.
“The SDC would like to urge all dental professionals to be cognisant of the laws and regulations governing dental practices, and to comply with the provisions of the code of ethics of the profession as well as directives and guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.”