SGH files police report on hepatitis C cluster

The Singapore General Hospital (SGH) filed a police report yesterday, two weeks after it revealed that 22 kidney patients had contracted hepatitis C infections while receiving treatment in the hospital.
The Singapore General Hospital (SGH) filed a police report yesterday, two weeks after it revealed that 22 kidney patients had contracted hepatitis C infections while receiving treatment in the hospital.ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

The Singapore General Hospital (SGH) filed a police report yesterday, two weeks after it revealed that 22 kidney patients had contracted hepatitis C infections while receiving treatment in the hospital.

In response to media queries, SGH said: "After initial internal investigation, we are still unable to determine the cause of the cluster of infection."

Currently, an independent review committee appointed by the Ministry of Health is looking into the cluster with the help of international advisers.

 

"The police report has been filed so that the police may ascertain if there was any foul play," SGH said.

On Oct 6, SGH revealed that 22 kidney patients had contracted hepatitis C infections. Eight have died, with five of the deaths possibly linked to the infection.

In a statement last night, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong noted that with the help of international advisers, the review committee will look into the cause of the cluster of hepatitis C infection at SGH and identify gaps or weak points that need to be improved.

Even as the committee continues its work independently, "we are not excluding any probable cause", he said, hence the police report.

Lawyer Amolat Singh noted that police investigations can be carried out only if there is a complainant.

"By being the complainant, SGH gives the police the basis to conduct a criminal investigation," he said. "It shows SGH wants to get to the bottom of this and rule out any possibility of sabotage or foul play."

As of yesterday, SGH had screened 593 patients for the hepatitis C virus. Of the patients, 512 tested negative while the remaining 81 results are pending.

A total of 296 staff members have been screened, with 294 of them having tested negative and the results pending for two.

Meanwhile, two international advisers have been appointed to the independent review committee.

They are Dr Scott Dewey Holmberg from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Professor Trish Perl from Johns Hopkins University.

Professor Leo Yee Sin, who chairs the committee, said: "We anticipate the inquiry and investigation processes to be challenging. The international experts will work closely with the local team to provide their inputs, as well as to be actively involved in the investigation processes."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2015, with the headline 'SGH files police report on hepatitis C cluster'. Print Edition | Subscribe