SARS-hit doctor cleared of reckless action

A SINGAPORE doctor who was infected by SARS and taken off a flight home from New York has been cleared of wrongdoing. 

A panel of inquiry found Dr Leong Hoe Nam innocent of irresponsible action when he boarded a Singapore Airlines flight from New York on March 14 after contracting the disease. 

It found that he had been unaware of SARS, which was just breaking out in Singapore, and travelled after seeing doctors in New York. 

Dr Leong, his pregnant wife and mother-in-law were taken off the flight in Frankfurt, after the Ministry of Health alerted the World Health Organisation to his symptoms.  

The ministry had learnt he was sick, after he called a colleague at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) to say he was coming home early.  

He was hospitalised in Frankfurt for more than two weeks. 

Because of the ministry’s quick response, only his wife, who is a doctor at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, her mother and an SIA stewardess fell ill. 


SingHealth conducted an inquiry on his return to Singapore on April 3, to see if he was at fault for travelling while infected by SARS. 


Dr Leong, a SingHealth registrar doing a stint at TTSH, had treated two SARS patients between March 3 and 9.  


At that time, the SARS virus had not been identified. 


On March 9, he had a fever, which was diagnosed by a doctor as viral fever.  


He left for New York for a clinical infectious disease course two days later. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network  

For another perspective from The Straits Times, a partner of Asia News Network, click here.

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