Clinic head nabbed for illegal use of healthcare vouchers: police

2020-11-16 03:45     Comment:0

A local man in charge of a local clinic was arrested on Saturday for cheating the government’s medical subsidy fund out of over 642,000 patacas through the illegal use of healthcare vouchers in 2017, a Judiciary Police (PJ) spokesperson said at a special press conference on Saturday.

The suspect is a 35-year-old local man surnamed Chan who was the “person-in-charge” of a local clinic, told the police that he is now jobless. There are five other suspects involved in the case: a 75-year-old retired local woman surnamed Chan; a 69-year-old retired local woman surnamed Ma; a 48-year-old local jobless woman surnamed Ng; a 73-year-old local traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner working for a TCM pharmacy in Patane district surnamed Cheong; and 

a 59-year-old local woman surnamed Tam who owns a dried seafood shop in San Kio district.

According to the PJ spokesperson, the Judiciary Police (PJ) received a letter from the Public Prosecutions Office (MP) on October 29, 2019 requesting an investigation into a case involving the female suspect surnamed Chan who had allegedly used 12 of her deceased mother’s healthcare vouchers in 2016. The spokesperson said Chan had used eight vouchers to visit a TCM practitioner in the city centre and four vouchers at a local TCM pharmacy to buy TCM medicines. However, according to the Health Bureau’s (SSM) records, the vouchers had been reimbursed by a clinic located in Nape. 

The spokesperson said that clinic started its business in 2015 and joined the government’s healthcare vouchers scheme in May 2016. The clinic stopped operating in August 2018. According to the spokesperson, the clinic received 64,200 vouchers from 5,794 residents between January and April in 2017 involving over 3,209,400 patacas from the government. According to the spokesperson, investigations showed that 1,704 of the residents were not in Macau on the day of their purported consultation.

According to the spokesperson, PJ officers’ follow-up investigations discovered that some patients’ vouchers were used by their family members (Ma and Ng) who had used the vouchers to buy TCM medicines from Cheong’s TCM pharmacy and dried seafood from Tam’s shop with a 30 percent discount. The spokesperson said Cheong had admitted to receiving the vouchers and reselling them for profit with a 20 percent discount. 

According to the spokesperson, PJ officers discovered that the person-in-charge of the clinic surnamed Chan had been involved in another fraud case in 2019 and was required to report to the police on a regular basis. He was taken in for questioning when he reported to the police on Friday. He denied any wrongdoing and refused to provide any information about the case as well as the patients’ information. However, according to the investigation, PJ officers believe that Chan had purchased the vouchers from Cheong and Tam at a 20 percent discount and then tried to cash them in by requesting payment from the Health Bureau. The officers estimate that Chan defrauded the government out of at least 642,000 patacas. As the clinic participated in the healthcare voucher scheme from 2016 and 2018, the police believe that more residents and vouchers could be involved in the case.

Chan (the person-in-charge of the clinic) was transferred to the Public Prosecutions Office (MP) on Saturday, facing a fraud charge involving a considerable amount, officially defined as exceeding 150,000 patacas, according to the spokesperson, who said that for the time being the five other suspects would not have to appear before a prosecutor.

Health Bureau reacts to the case 

Meanwhile, according to a statement by the Health Bureau (FSM) on Saturday about the case, the clinic was involved in multiple violations of healthcare voucher regulations so that the government cancelled its agreement with the clinic in August 2018. However, the Health Bureau was notified by the Identification Services Bureau (DSI) in August 2019 that the latter had gathered information about the clinic which showed that it had used healthcare vouchers of the deceased. The Health Bureau reported the case to the Public Prosecutions Office (MP) in October 2019.

The Health Bureau said that it will never tolerate regulatory violations and urged the health sector and residents to refrain from any wrongdoing. Residents suspecting any wrongdoing are urged to call the bureau’s healthcare subsidy support centre hotline 2822 5050.

The statement pointed out that the Health Bureau launched digital healthcare vouchers on May 1, 2018 to optimise procedures, reduce the use of paper and prevent illegalities. 

The statement said that a total of 3,918 inspections have been carried out by the Health Bureau since the implementation of the government’s healthcare subsidy scheme in 2009, and a total of 509 cases had been reported to the Public Prosecutions Office (MP) for defrauding the government’s public funds through the illegal use of the vouchers. 

Each permanent resident is entitled to digital vouchers worth 600 patacas per year.

The hooded healthcare voucher fraud suspect is escorted by Judiciary Police (PJ) officers from the PJ headquarters in Zape to a vehicle on Saturday. Photo: Iong Tat Choi

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