Troubled nursing home escapes closure

Residents at the Good Shepherd Loft yesterday. The 33-bed nursing home faced closure on Monday after its nursing aides were found giving injections to residents, which is not permitted as they are not qualified nurses.
Residents at the Good Shepherd Loft yesterday. The 33-bed nursing home faced closure on Monday after its nursing aides were found giving injections to residents, which is not permitted as they are not qualified nurses.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Remedial steps taken, Good Shepherd Loft's licence extended by 3 months after appeal

The Good Shepherd Loft (GSL), a nursing home which was facing closure on Monday for letting nursing aides give its residents injections, has received another chance.

Yesterday, after an appeal by GSL and a surprise inspection by the authorities that showed remedial steps had been taken, the Ministry of Health (MOH) extended its licence by three months - with two caveats.

It will not be allowed to take in new residents and has to be mentored by the director of nursing of St Joseph's Home, Sister Geraldine Tan. MOH will then review GSL's licence again early next year.

The 33-bed nursing home in Bukit Timah, which currently has 29 residents, came under the spotlight when an MOH inspection in January found that nursing aides were giving insulin injections to residents.

Said a ministry spokesman: "Nursing aides are not qualified nurses under the Nurses and Midwives Act, and this practice could pose severe risks to patients."

A September inspection just prior to the expiry of its licence found more issues - this time nursing aides were found to have given medicine intravenously to a resident, including antibiotics.

The six-year-old nursing home's licence was shortened and renewed for one month until Nov 28. It was to transfer its residents to other homes and make arrangements for their future care. GSL appealed to continue operations and agreed to address patient safety issues.

None of its residents pulled out from the home following news that it might face closure.

Explaining why it extended GSL's licence, the MOH spokesman said that in its unannounced inspection, the home "had taken proactive actions to rectify the areas of concern". "Since the last inspection (in November), there were no further findings of nursing aides giving any form of injection. Several care protocols were also reviewed and put in order."

Speaking to The Straits Times last weekend, Dr Belinda Wee, co-founder of the nursing home and one of two doctors there, said its nursing aides stopped giving subcutaneous insulin injections in late March. They also stopped administering intravenous injections after Sept 6.

She said the intravenous injections discovered in the inspection were given over five days in September to relieve the symptoms of a patient who had a chest infection.

She explained that "a doctor gave the first three doses" of the course, with registered nurses later giving some injections in the daytime.

Nursing aides gave "some of the late-night doses when the registered nurses were not on duty", she added. These were prepared beforehand. GSL has two registered nurses and eight nursing aides.

"Now, all injections are given by doctors or registered nurses," said Dr Wee. She apologised to the Health Ministry for the breaches, but said the home's nursing aides have Institute of Technical Education healthcare certifications and in-house training by doctors and registered nurses on the injection techniques and safety practices.

Addressing the media yesterday, Dr Wee said: "We further hope there can be some flexibility with implementation of the rules governing small (and) big nursing homes as our on-the-ground operations differ greatly."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2016, with the headline 'Troubled nursing home escapes closure'. Print Edition | Subscribe