Better communication needed between hospitals

My father-in-law was admitted to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH) after a fall at the end of September last year.

While he was there, it was discovered that he had colon cancer.

Because he has kidney and heart conditions, we reminded the doctors at NTFGH numerous times to be aware of his health conditions before his surgery and treatment.

We also requested that the hospital check with Singapore General Hospital (SGH), where he goes to see his renal and heart doctors.

After his tumour-removal surgery, my father-in-law suffered a mild heart attack and was referred to NTFGH's cardiology department.

Since he was already seeing NTFGH's oncologist, general surgeon, cardiologist and even dentist, we requested that his SGH renal records also be transferred to the hospital.

However, our request was rejected, even though we were willing to start as a new case.

Recently, my father-in-law went to SGH for his renal appointment. We were shocked to see that SGH duplicated four of the medications given by NTFGH. He could have unknowingly overdosed.

This was why we requested that my father-in-law see the specialists all in one hospital.

How could this have happened? Could it be because the two hospitals' systems are not linked, as they are from different groups?

How do hospitals ensure the best care for their patients, if the patients see different doctors at different hospitals?

Lena Ang Siew Huay (Madam)

HOSPITALS' REPLY:

We are sorry for what Madam Lena Ang Siew Huay and her father-in-law experienced.

Madam Ang's father-in-law is a long-term patient at Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

Upon discharge from Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH) after his operation, he was advised to continue his care under the SGH renal care team.

Because of the progressive nature of renal disease, which requires close monitoring, this is a practice that is generally advocated for renal patients to ensure continuity of care. This was explained to Madam Ang by NTFGH, and she was receptive to the recommendation.

Although there are processes in place to facilitate the sharing of medical information across public healthcare institutions, patients with multiple medical problems and who require treatment at different hospitals for their care needs require more attention to ensure that their care is well coordinated.

A hospital discharge summary was provided to Madam Ang's father-in-law for this purpose. However, a short memo on his conditions managed at NTFGH might have been helpful for the SGH renal team to better care for him.

We understand that although the SGH renal team provided Madam Ang's father-in-law with a prescription for all the medications he needed, the SGH pharmacist provided Madam Ang's father-in-law with only the required medications not given by NTFGH.

Overall, we regret that the transition of Madam Ang's father-in-law from NTFGH back to SGH's renal team caused distress to Madam Ang's family.

We will continue to work on improving our processes as well as our communication with patients and healthcare partners, to ensure seamless care for patients across the healthcare continuum.

Marjorie Foo (Dr)

Head, Renal Medicine

Singapore General Hospital

Tagore Rajat (Dr)

Director, Renal Medicine

Ng Teng Fong General Hospital

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2016, with the headline 'Better communication needed between hospitals'. Print Edition | Subscribe