Review Committee: Infection control breaches caused hep C outbreak
Breaches in infection control caused the hepatitis C outbreak at two renal wards at the Singapore General hospital, said the Independent Review Committee (IRC).
The committee — chaired by Communicable Disease Centre head Leo Yee Sin — convened on Sept 28 to look into the hepatitis C cluster. Its findings were submitted to Health Minister Gan Kim Yong last Saturday (Dec 5).
Aside from the breaches in infection control, gaps in infection control practices and a high concentration of very sick patients within the renal wards all made it conducive for the infection to spread.
SGH had started checking on the high number of patients with hepatitis C in mid-May. But Director of Medical Services Benjamin Ong was only briefed on Sept 3 after investigations were finished.
To date, the 25 cases in the cluster are only localised in the two affected wards – wards 64A and 67.
Earlier on Tuesday (Dec 8), a police statement had ruled out foul play being involved in the outbreak.
A statement by SGH said that it accepted the finding and apologises for the lapses.
Steps will also be taken to regain the public trust.
Professor Ang Chong Lye, the hospital's chief executive officer, said:
“My colleagues and I deeply regret what happened. I would like to apologise to the patients and their families who have been affected by the outbreak. It has been a hard and humbling lesson but we will learn from this, improve and work tirelessly to ensure that our patients are always safe in our care. We are determined to regain the trust of Singaporeans, whom we have been most privileged to serve.
We thank the Committee for their thorough review. SGH takes a very serious view of what happened and will look into the areas identified by the IRC on top of the enhanced practices and additional measures we have taken since June 2015. Our patients’ safety and well-being are our highest priority.
We have met with all the affected patients and their family members or next-of-kin to provide them our full support. We are grateful for their patience and understanding; and will continue to care for them and assist them with their medical and emotional needs.
There had been concerns from the public on the time we took to announce the cluster of hepatitis C virus infection in our renal wards. SGH has reflected on our response and approach, and acknowledge that we could have done better and escalated the matter earlier to SingHealth and MOH.”
Read the full report in our print edition on Dec 9.
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