Saturday, October 10, 2015
Press Statement on SGH Hepatitis C Mass Infections
Date: 11 Oct 2015
For Immediate Release
Press Statement on SGH Hepatitis C Mass Infections
SGH and MOH Should Take Full Responsibility and Do the Right Things
First and foremost, our deepest condolences to the families of the patients who were dead due to the outbreak of Hepatitis C mass infections in SGH. We also empathize with those families of frustrated patients who are infected and suffered from Hepatitis C infections which may have long term impact and implications on their health.
We are angry with Ministry of Health’s (MOH) and the Health Minister’s, Mr. Gan Kim Yong, obfuscation over this serious incident. MOH and Mr. Gan should take full responsibility for the failure of making public the information on the incident immediately when SGH informed them in late August.
PPP noted SDP commented about the issue. But we would like to look at the issue beyond the political angle --- this issue is so serious and it should be beyond politics. We share the point made by Singapore Democratic Party that there are reasons to believe that such deliberate delay of release of information in late August was based on political consideration of the impending General Elections. We condemn such act as it puts PAP’s party interests on top of public health interests. Such decision is totally irresponsible as it puts public health at risk.
PPP noted that Mr. Gan said he wanted to maintain “transparency” but such 'transparency" of delaying of information release is undesirable as it put patients to SGH in health risk directly, and Singaporeans indirectly. If this is the kind of “transparency” Mr. Gan is trying to maintain, we would be utterly disappointed. We urge Mr. Gan to make a public apology and step down for failing to inform the public in a timely manner. Such low standard of “transparency” would put even more Singaporeans at health risk if there were to be other major mass outbreaks of infectious diseases in the future.
PPP noted that MOH has stated in response to criticism that hospitals are to report on Hepatitis infections only for acute cases. We wish to point out that MOH’s standing order and protocol are totally outdated and show that it has learned nothing from the SARS outbreak in 2003. Any mass outbreak of infectious diseases should be reported and made public as soon as possible regardless of its nature. If there isn’t any standing protocol for immediate reporting of the cluster outbreak of such infectious diseases like Hepatitis C, which may result in serious complications as well as liver cancer, then we question MOH’s competency in its regulatory role.
MOH should review its standing protocols to include mandatory report by hospitals within a stipulated time if there is any suspicion of outbreak of any infectious disease. Such information should be made public immediately to keep patients alert while investigations are carried out concurrently. This is the level of professional standard of transparency we expect from MOH and all hospitals.
The information released by MOH and SGH so far seems to suggest that they are free from any forms of human errors or negligence. We find the report incredible and we hope this is not the standard of “ownself check ownself” logic which was promoted by PAP during the General Elections. 8 lives had been lost, and that has to be investigated by police as they are coroner cases, before one can rule out foul play or negligence.
The report by SGH suggested that the infections were most probably caused by multi-dose vials. As pointed out by SDP, all renal patients would have been screened for hepatitis before their kidney transplant. Thus there must be human error involved either the screening were not done properly, SGH staff has contracted Hepatitis and infected the patients or that there are lapses in the administration of injections of insulin into the patients.
It is incredible for SGH’s report to blame only the outbreak on the use of multi-dose vials without mention of human errors and lapses. We understand that such mention would have implications on SGH’s legal liabilities towards the patients and the families of those who died of the infections but it is important to be upfront and forthcoming on such matters and review its staffs on the safety of their current practices.
Regardless of whether it is due to human negligence or inappropriate protocol set for the administration of injection from multi-dose vials, we feel that it is totally inadequate for SGH to only be responsible of the treatment of Hepatitis C of the patients without mention of any compensation made to those who were affected. Hepatitis C is not just an ordinary infectious disease which can be easily cured. Some may be affected for the rest of their life. Although no amount of money could compensate the grieve of losing one’s love one but at the very least, the government and SGH should demonstrate their sincerity in making amends of their mistakes which have caused death and sufferings to the patients.
What was done cannot be undone and it is totally unfortunate for this outbreak to happen. The very least MOH and SGH could do is to be open and transparent in their handling the aftermath with the aim of reviewing the inadequacy of current protocols and administration so to improve public health safety in future. At the same time, we hope that SGH and MOH would assume all responsibilities of this outbreak and make appropriate compensations to the patients and the families of the dead.
Goh Meng Seng
For Pro-Tem Committee
People’s Power Party.