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Photo of soldiers at National Day Parade (NDP) Rehearsal 2015 in City Hall Tristan Tan/Shutterstock.com

Doctor writes to forum: Errant SAF commanders and MOs who revoke NSFs’ medical leave should be reported

A member of the public, Dr Tan Soo Heong, wrote to ST Forum today ('Report errant commanders as well', 29 Oct) highlighting that errant SAF commanders have at times revoked medical leave given by him to NSF.

"In the course of my work, I often see full-time national servicemen (NSF) with hand and wrist injuries," Dr Tan said.

"I give them appropriate medical leave commensurate with the severity of their injuries."

But he also revealed that he has encountered cases where NSFs have had their medical leave revoked by their camp's medical officer or commanders and were made to return to their duties.

"The medical condition of some of these patients were aggravated as a result of this," he shared.

Dr Tan went on to explain that the duties of soldiers are no less hazardous nor any less strenuous than those undertaken by the workers in workplace.

"The key concern when the injured NSF is made to return to his duties is the risk of aggravating the injuries and reducing his chance of full recovery," he further explained.

"Just as the Ministry of Manpower and the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) are concerned that some doctors are not giving injured workers the rest they need, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and the SMC should be concerned that our young and injured NSFs are not given the rest they require to recover. When the NSF is injured and is unable to perform his duties, he is entitled to medical leave," he opined.

"By revoking the medical leave given, the doctor (camp's medical officer) may be breaching the SMC's Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines and may have done so not with the best interest of the patient in mind."

Dr Tan advocated that errant commanders who revoke medical leave against the wishes of professional doctors should be reported to MINDEF.

Also, errant SAF medical officers who revoke medical leave issued by other professional doctors should also be reported to the SMC for review.