Council revokes doctor’s license, patients in limbo

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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“I don’t know, all these Samoan doctors ganged up against me. I have been accused of malpractice and investigations were underway but that was it, nothing more” – Dr. Lee

“I don’t know, all these Samoan doctors ganged up against me. I have been accused of malpractice and investigations were underway but that was it, nothing more” – Dr. Lee

The Samoa Medical Council (S.M.C.) has revoked the medical license of a Chinese Neurologist who has been working at the hospital for 19 years claiming he “is not a certified physician” but a “traditional healer.”  

The Chairman of S.M.A, Leali’ifano Dr. Iopu Tanielu, confirmed the decision in response to questions from the Sunday Samoan. 

Dr. Lee is disappointed about the decision. He said it was unfair and it did not go through due process. 

But even more disappointed are some of Dr. Lee’s patients. One in particular who had a stroke 10 years ago said it is a matter of life and death for him.

“I have been going to the hospital three times already to try and get another prescription for my medication but I was turned away because Dr. Lee is no longer working,” he said. 

“He’s the only Neurologist that’s currently working at the hospital and it’s disturbing because this deals directly with my health." 

“Life is health and health is life, so what about other patients who suffered strokes and have worse conditions than me... how are they coping with it?”

But Leali’ifano stands by S.M.C’s decision.

 “We have concrete evidence,” he said adding that “it was the legal opinion from the Attorney General which led to the decision.” 

According to Dr. Lee, his services were terminated without an explanation.

 “I feel sorry for my patients,” he said.  

Dr. Lee started at the hospital in 1995 as an Aid for the Chinese government. 

“It was in 1998 when I started working in the Medical Ward and over the years I was the only Neurologist left. Even when I was terminated from the hospital, there was no other Neurologist,” he said. 

“But I don't know why I was let go.” 

According to Dr. Lee, the General Manager wanted to hire him as one of the management team.  

“But I don’t know, all these Samoan doctors ganged up against me.” 

He added that there have been a lot of unfounded allegations against him. 

“I have been accused of malpractice and investigations were underway but that was it, nothing more.” 

He said one particular board member wrote to him regarding a wrong diagnosis.

 “But who is this doctor? He’s just a regular doctor and I don’t answer to him, he’s not my boss.” Dr. Lee did not name this board member. 

He confirmed his termination letter was received about three weeks ago. 

 “I threw it in the trash when I got it, but then it’s ok,” he said. “Before I couldn't sleep because all I can think of are my patients but today, I can sleep peacefully. I still haven't received my full pay since they terminated my services.”

Asked for a comment, Leali’ifano told Sunday Samoan that Dr. Lee cannot register to be a medical doctor anymore. 

“He is now registered under the allied profession. With the allied profession, he can prescribe traditional medicine. Because some of the medicine we are talking about is not our usual medication, it’s medicine from China." 

“It’s traditional medicine. That’s why he can’t register with the Medical Council as a practical physician anymore along with other significant reasons.”

Leali’ifano added that Dr. Lee’s practicing license qualifies him as a traditional healer.

“But not as a certified physician. His Medical license has been revoked and this is in accordance with the current laws and the new reforms by the Ministry of Health. [Dr] Lee is not a certified physician.” 

The Medical Council Chairman did not explain what reforms and which law he was referring to. 

“The certified documents we have is evidence that Lee is not a certified physician. The Medical Council has not stopped Lee from doing what he’s certified to do. That goes for his patients as well, they can go and see him, but at their own risk."

“They’re at their own risk, just as the same for me.... I’m a private doctor, the people are at their own risk if they come to see me.”

He also made it clear the Medical Council has not stopped any patient from seeing Dr. Lee. 

The Chairman was asked why it has taken so long time for the Council to revoke Dr. Lee’s Medical license.

“Yes, it’s true Lee has been working for a very long time but he was registered by the previous Medical Council. There were some problems that arose which led to the Council to investigate. We also sought the legal opinion of the Attorney General on this matter.” 

Samoa Observer requested for a copy of this legal opinion, however Leali’ifano said to make a formal request through to the Council’s Registrar. 

The Sunday Samoan visited the hospital this week in an attempt to get a comment from the National Health Services General Manager, Palanitina Tupuimatagi Toelupe. She was on leave.

Acting General Manager Sala Ma’a Tasesa declined to comment.

“I don’t know enough to comment about that case, and I have an important meeting to attend, so I’m sorry but I can’t comment on that,” she said. 

Samoa Observer also reached out to Attorney General’s office for a copy of the legal opinion.

Assistant Attorney General Galumalemana Noumea L. Teueli denied the request. 

“The legal advice is confidential information and cannot be disclosed, nor can we comment on anything else pertaining to the said advice as that would breach our duty of confidentiality to our client.” 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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