Aug 2014: Do mediators need subject matter expertise?




Welcome Note from Executive Director, Singapore Mediation Centre

Dear Reader

We are re-launching our newsletter to bring you news and articles of interest to you. Best of all, we are hoping to bring you news with greater regularity and are aiming for a monthly e-publication.

In this inaugural issue, we have featured an article by Dr Joseph Sheares. Dr Sheares will provide his take on how subject matter expertise can be useful for mediation. In this regard, and in response to customer needs, SMC is introducing sub-panels of industry specialist mediators. Currently, we have mediators in over 10 specializations and we will look into growing this list as we progress.


Seng Onn  


Do Mediators Need Subject Matter Expertise?

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By Dr Joseph Sheares, healthcare industry mediator since 2003

Singapore’s hospitals receive high volumes of patient feedback every month. While some are encouraging compliments, many contain disparaging comments. As hospitals take time to respond to each one, this inevitably increases work stress for doctors and nurses and distracts them from their core responsibilities.

Meanwhile, in other countries, specialized healthcare mediation has seen success in helping healthcare providers avoid costly litigation, reduce stress levels and improve patient satisfaction.

Although SMC practices facilitative mediation (i.e. mediators do not generally provide their opinions on the merits of the case), it is useful to have a specialist mediator who can call upon his expertise when necessary. For instance, where there is no movement because one party has a misconceived impression of his case, a mediator can assist the party to view his case rationally.

An experienced healthcare mediator is better able to examine allegations of medical negligence and compare them to government guidelines and the standard of care that is proper and acceptable to the medical profession. If one party distrusts the medical explanation of the other party, the medically-trained mediator will be better placed to help parties appreciate if such distrust is valid or otherwise. And with regards to monetary compensation, the medically-trained mediator will know the acceptable range of fees and help parties reach a reasonable settlement.

For example, I once mediated a case where the claimant’s mother had been admitted for a very serious illness. The claimant wanted treatment fees he had already paid to be reimbursed because he believed that she had caught two severe antibiotic-resistant bacteria in hospital, prolonging her stay and causing complications. But the doctors explained that the mother had actually carried the bacteria into the hospital. The claimant said that this had been poorly communicated, and did not trust the doctors at first.

At the mediation, the doctors finally acknowledged that they had not communicated the facts well to the patient’s family. In addition, during a private session with the claimant, I was able to help him appreciate that the treatment had followed government and professional standards. As a result, he dropped his claim and instead agreed to give feedback on how the hospital could improve its communication with patients and their families.


Affordable, Specialized Mediation for the Healthcare Industry


Healthcare providers and patients will now enjoy better subsidies to resolve their disputes with mediation, under a new Healthcare Mediation Scheme launched by the SMC and MOH Holdings in April 2014.

Interested parties can now seek free advice from MOH Holdings on whether to apply for mediation and how to best prepare for mediation. Also, for matters involving a public healthcare institute or registered institution of public character (IPC), mediation is free for the first three hours.

All mediations under the scheme will be facilitated by two mediators from a specially appointed panel of healthcare mediators who have demonstrated competence in managing emotional parties and technical healthcare issues. The panel includes former high court judges, professors, medical practitioners, counsellors, and lawyers. 

The Healthcare Mediation Scheme 

A refundable deposit of $100 is payable by each party once the mediation is confirmed.

For matters involving a public healthcare institute or institution of public character, mediation is free for the first 3 hours. Each party pays a fee of $250 per hour or part thereof from the 4th hour onwards. 

For matters involving a private medical practitioner or healthcare institute, mediation is free for the first hour. Each party pays $400 per hour or part thereof from the 2nd hour onwards. Private institutions may also consider SMC’s Commercial Mediation Scheme, under which each party pays $963 per day for a mediation involving claims of $60,000-$100,000.