Hepatitis C outbreak: SGH apologises for lapses, says it will work to close gaps

SGH chief executive Ang Chong Lye apologised to the patients and families affected by the outbreak, and said "SGH has reflected on our response and approach, and acknowledges that we could have done better and escalated the matter earlier to SingHeal
SGH chief executive Ang Chong Lye apologised to the patients and families affected by the outbreak, and said "SGH has reflected on our response and approach, and acknowledges that we could have done better and escalated the matter earlier to SingHealth and MOH".ST FILE PHOTO

The Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has apologised for the lapses that led to the hepatitis C outbreak in its renal wards, stressing that it is working to close the gaps identified in the independent review committee's report.

"My colleagues and I deeply regret what happened," said SGH chief executive Ang Chong Lye. "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."

The hospital's parent organisation, SingHealth, has set up a task force to conduct audits on infection control practices across its various institutions.

It has also appointed a separate committee to implement the recommendations of the independent review committee, which was convened by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to investigate the outbreak.

'WE WILL LEARN FROM THIS''

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.

SGH CHIEF EXECUTIVE ANG CHONG LYE

The recommendations include refreshing standard operating procedures for infection control, as well as improving surveillance and outbreak response systems.

Professor Ang admitted that the hospital could have reacted more quickly to the outbreak.

"SGH has reflected on our response and approach, and acknowledges that we could have done better and escalated the matter earlier to SingHealth and MOH."

Professor Fong Kok Yong, chairman of SGH's medical board, said in the same press statement: "We have learnt from this outbreak that a more robust alert and escalation system at the hospital has to be in place, with clear definition of roles and individual accountability.

"We will leave no stone unturned to enhance patient safety, and do all we can to prevent the recurrence of such an unfortunate event."

Prof Fong also said the hospital will work with MOH to implement the recommendations in the committee's report, including building a framework across institutions to detect, investigate and manage uncommon infections such as hepatitis C.

Twenty-five patients who were admitted to Ward 64A or Ward 67 in SGH between January and September this year were diagnosed with hepatitis C infections.

Of the 25, eight have since died. The virus was proven to be either a direct or contributing factor in seven of the deaths.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2015, with the headline 'SGH apologises for lapses, says it will work to close gaps'. Print Edition | Subscribe