Woman gets wrong jab, faced other errors at Choa Chu Kang Polyclinic

An elderly woman sits in the Pharmacy waiting area of Choa Chu Kang Polyclinic.
An elderly woman sits in the Pharmacy waiting area of Choa Chu Kang Polyclinic. PHOTO: ST FILE

Over the past couple of months, housewife Karen Koh experienced a series of errors in her dealings with Choa Chu Kang Polyclinic, culminating in her getting the wrong vaccine earlier this month.

She had gone to the polyclinic to do three fasting blood tests in May.

She was having lunch after having her blood drawn when she saw that the bill did not include the test for cholesterol levels.

When she checked, she was told that the staff had not taken her blood for the test and was told to return the next day to have her blood drawn again as she had already eaten.

She asked to see a doctor, who got a nurse to divert some of the blood already taken, so she would not need to return the next day.

The next error occurred when Madam Koh, 32, wanted to use her Medisave. She filled up a form, but was told by the cashier that it was not needed.

After she got home, the polyclinic called to say the form was needed after all. Madam Koh refused another trip to the polyclinic. The cashier apologised and said she would collect the form from Madam Koh as it had been her fault.

Earlier this month, Madam Koh was bitten by a dog and went to the polyclinic for a tetanus jab but was given one for typhoid instead.

The polyclinic told her about the error the next day and apologised. A team from the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics (NHGP), which runs the polyclinic, met her to explain that she was told the next day as it took time to count the vaccines to confirm the error.

Dr Lew Yii Jen, NHGP senior director of clinical services, checked on Madam Koh and said she had not suffered from any side effects from the typhoid jab.

Ms Jancy Mathews, NHGP's deputy director of nursing, said one nurse had taken the vaccine to Madam Koh and another had given the jab. Neither had checked that it was the correct one.

She said the nurse "did not check the vaccine before administering it because she had been distracted" and the packaging for the two vaccines looked alike.

She added that the nurse had not followed protocol that required her to use the electronic immunisation system to verify the vaccine before administering it.

The minutes of a meeting which the NHG shared with The Straits Times said the nurses voluntarily told the clinic of the error.

Madam Koh did not subsequently get a tetanus jab.

Dr Asok Kurup, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said tetanus, a bacterial infection that can cause locked jaw, is rare here, but should be considered after a dog bite.

He said: "If it is a deep wound, and the individual had been previously immunised in childhood, but without a booster in the last five to 10 years, a tetanus toxoid shot is required."

It is best to get the jab within 24 hours, but it is also acceptable within a three-day period, he said.

Madam Koh asked for a refund. She received a refund this week of $25 for the injection, but not the $12.60 consultation fee.

Last night, NHGP said it will "refund the full consultation fees as an act of goodwill, even though consultation services had been provided and the doctor had managed Madam Koh appropriately".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2016, with the headline 'Woman gets wrong jab, faced other errors at polyclinic'. Print Edition | Subscribe