Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Call for the Resignation of Minister of Health for Weak Leadership

For Immediate Release

Call for the Resignation of Minister of Health for Weak Leadership

The Singapore General Hospital (SGH) on Thursday (Mar 17 2016) announced that it had meted out disciplinary sanctions to 12 SGH staffs in leadership positions and 4 Ministry of Health (MOH) senior officers were also disciplined for the lapses in the Hepatitis C outbreak which lasted from April to June last year.

The Panel of the Independent Review Committee's (IRC), which was commissioned by MOH, recommended to further strengthen the hospital’s infection control and disease outbreak surveillance and management mechanisms.

Among the various recommendations made, we are surprised that certain basic routine cleaning work has been singled out. It is apparent that SGH has been operating without clear SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) on the issue of cleaning and disinfection of contaminated surfaces. We find it totally unacceptable for the management of SGH to neglect such basic SOPs on maintaining hygienic environment in the hospital.

We would expect punishment which would reflect the severity of the mistakes committed to be handed out to all relevant mid and top management personnel. This would include the Minister of Health himself for his inability to get timely information on such matters in order to make the appropriate decisions corresponding to the seriousness of the matter.

Minister Gan’s leadership is put into serious doubt when he just lost track of what was going on in his own Ministry and the hospitals which were put under his purview. We regret that the Prime Minister is not able to see the problem of Minister Gan’s weak and incompetent leadership and does not asked for his resignation. This is a glaring lack of accountability and it puts doubts into the meritocracy system which PAP has always boasted of.

There is an apparent lack of transparency when it comes to accountability meted out to the other staffs responsible for these lapses. The amount of financial penalties was also not revealed, there was no demotion and nor any staffs found to be in the wrong asked to leave. The Ministry has promised an Independent inquiry into this outbreak but what good would it have if there was a total lack of transparency in detailing the problems, lapses and the linkages to the corresponding punishment meted to the respective staff?

Regrettably and ironically, such Black Box operation of the Independent Review Committee has just enhances the perception of the consistency of the flaws which led to the Hep C outbreak: i.e the lack of transparency and accountability when the outbreak was first discovered but no information was released to the public in a timely manner.

The most important issue that alarmed the public was the delay of reporting the crisis to MOH, it took 2 to 3 months for SGH to report to MOH when the problem was serious enough to warrant a high alert. MOH was notified of the cluster in late August and the minister of health was informed on the 18 Sep. So it took more than 18 days for the minister to be notified. There was no mentioning of delays, does it mean that the delay was not an issue or was it not even investigated at all?

There are also no mentions if the family of the victims are compensated and if the compensations are adequate.

MOH had promised an “objective and critical review” but the report seems to have left out many critical issues. In order for public trust in healthcare to be restored, we urged MOH answer and publish the information the pertaining to the above-mentioned questions.

We reiterate our point that the Minister of Health should take full responsibility for the Mess of this Hep C outbreak due to his weak leadership in which such severe cases of infectious outbreak were not reported IMMEDIATELY to the Minister himself. It is unimaginable for the Minister to be KEPT IN THE DARK of the whole period of serious outbreak for at least 5 months before he was officially notified. There is no satisfactory explanation for such disastrous situation to happen other than WEAK and INCOMPETENT Leadership.

Goh Meng Seng
Secretary General for PPP CEC

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