Tormented doctor’s wife's search for answers
Most weekends Dr Yen-Yung Yap could be found tending the garden at the back of his modest brown-brick house in Adelaide's southern suburbs.
He'd urge his three young children to fill a plastic bucket with potatoes, onions, broccoli and other homegrown vegetables that he nurtured in two raised garden beds at the back of his Clovelly Park abode.
At the front of the house a carpet of pink and purple from masses of geraniums would signal spring's arrival.
On a cool morning on September 3 this year, the 43-year-old Malaysian-born obstetrician, gynaecologist and fertility specialist dropped his children at school as normal, ran an errand with his wife at Marion and returned home to have a shower.
At about 9am, without any explanation, he put a bag into his car, drove from his garage, paused to admire his house and geraniums one last time, before driving away.
It would be the last time Mei-Khing Loo, 44, would see her husband and partner of 21 years alive. Six hours later their daughter would ring her mum asking why "daddy" hadn't picked her and her siblings up from school.
On September 5 - on the eve of Father's Day and after an extensive search - police found Dr Yap, wearing his favourite jacket, in Kuitpo forest - 31km from his house.
Credit card records show he bought a $5 coffee from the Kuitpo Hall on midday the day he vanished.
"A week before (his death) he had told us he wanted to go to Kuitpo to do mushroom picking," an at-times distraught Ms Loo told The Advertiser.
"He even asked my mum if she had experience of mushroom picking. When we were told he was at Kuitpo, we thought perhaps that he'd gone there to do some scouting around - he had never been there before."
Ms Loo invited The Advertiser to her house to speak about the events leading up to her husband's death and the toll an investigation and restrictions into his clinical care had taken on him and the family.
The Advertiser reported last month that Medical Board of Australia had, in March, banned Dr Yap from performing vaginal births unless supervised following a complaint about his alleged repeated use of suctions, instead of switching to forceps, to deliver two babies who suffered bleeding on the skull.
In March 2019, the board separately reprimanded Dr Yap and ordered he undertake training and education after "several complaints" about his conduct and performance, according to the SA Health Practitioners Tribunal.
Dr Yap argued in submissions and letters sighted by The Advertiser that he had done nothing wrong, had followed medical guidelines and that the babies and mothers had suffered no long-term effects.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) said in a statement this week that conditions had been imposed on Dr Yap "in response to a series of notifications of concern about his practice, made by several individuals including patients and doctors".
Ms Loo has revealed that one of the births in question was in 2015 and that a complaint against Dr Yap's clinical care was only filed in 2019 after similar complications with the birth of a second baby.
Both babies were delivered at the Calvary North Adelaide Hospital and the mother of the 2015 delivery used Dr Yap for the birth of her second child in 2018, Ms Loo said.
In a wide-ranging interview, she also revealed:
DR YAP'S Adelaide-based legal counsel quit two days before an appeal hearing and a fortnight after raising doubts, in a letter sighted by The Advertiser, about Dr Yap's prospect of success unless he was "prepared to undertake retraining or conduct supervised deliveries".
SHE wrote to AHPRA on October 26 requesting it finalise all investigations into her husband's conduct and release any findings "in the public interest".
THE National Health Practitioner Ombudsman on September 1 wrote to Dr Yap advising it had opened an investigation into his complaint about AHPRA and the Medical Board's conduct in his case.
The Advertiser can also reveal that the Adelaide University-trained medic and fellow of the Royal Australia & New Zealand College of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, wrote two letters before his death expressing his apparent frustration with the Medical Board investigation.
In one typed letter, dated June 2020 and addressed to his "dearest Mei Khing", he apologised for the stress that led to her suffering a stroke.
"I don't know how to express my sorrow and I don't have (a) solution to stop the stressful problems continuing to affect your life and our kids," the note, which Ms Loo said she found in a bedside drawer on September 5, said.
"At this stage my obstetric practice is permanently damaged, and I cannot continue my profession to care for patients who wanted my specialist care.
"The ongoing harassment from AHPRA and the Medical Board will make me mentally and emotionally traumatised and professionally unable to care for my patients, and financially unable to care for our kids.
"They are abusing their power, and the public, and my professional competitors know how to use AHPRA as a tool to harass innocent doctors."
Ms Loo said four doctors engaged by her husband's legal team provided expert reports finding he had done nothing wrong in the births.
In another, undated, letter found on his computer, Dr Yap wrote that he had been "punished" for not using forceps.
"In my opinion, the incidence of birth trauma could rise as a result of the Medical Board ruling," he wrote. "I stood by the wishes of my patients and continue (sic) vacuum deliveries.
"For this Medical Board ruling, obstetricians will become worried about using vacuum and would not be inclined to do sequential forcep delivery."
The Medical Board can impose conditions on a doctor if it has "reasonable belief" that the public is at risk and before any investigation is completed.
AHPRA wrote to Sydney-based lawyer Jaswinder Sekhon, who was representing Dr Yap's insurer, on September 21 advising it would be "inappropriate" to make a finding in Dr Yap's case without giving him the right to make submissions.
The letter said it would also serve "no public protection purpose".
In its statement this week, AHPRA said: "We are aware of the request from Dr Yap's widow, Ms Mei-Khing Loo, to complete the investigation ... in the circumstances of this case, there is no longer any risk posed and therefore no proper basis for us to continue the investigation."
But Ms Loo, in a letter to AHPRA cc'd to Premier Steven Marshall's office and Labor Senator Penny Wong, said it was "unacceptable" not to finalise the investigation.
"It's heartbreaking for me, he was a person who liked to find a solution for everything," she said of her husband.
"Maybe he lived a short life but he did already so much in his life. I now need to go through some very tough things, and I'm still in a state of denial, to be honest. Everyday I look at him … and it's very heartaching, but I have to tell myself I have to be strong, I have three children to look after."
AHPRA is assisting police to prepare a report for the SA coroner.
Originally published as Tormented doctor's wife: My search for answers