Valuable lessons in integrity and vigilance

The unfortunate incident at Choa Chu Kang Polyclinic holds many lessons for medical practitioners, including myself ("Woman gets wrong jab, faced other errors at polyclinic"; last Saturday).

It is valuable to realise that, despite all the measures instituted, no system is foolproof and mistakes can still occur.

The integrity of the organisation's staff forms the last line of defence.

I was impressed by the nurses who voluntarily told the clinic that the wrong vaccine had been given. Their action speaks volumes of the honesty behind the nursing profession, as well as the organisation they work for.

It is fortunate that the vaccine the patient received did not have any ill consequences and could even protect her against a disease.

We can learn from the lengths the polyclinic went to in rectifying its mistakes, including diverting some blood already taken so that the patient did not have to make a second visit, and the cashier going to the patient's home to collect the Medisave form.

When lapses in service occur in the medical field, it is important that we retain trust in the doctor-patient relationship. When trust is eroded or the relationship is compromised, medical practitioners usually find it stressful to make objective assessments. More mistakes may even ensue.

I hope this incident will remind medical practitioners to be vigilant at all times and to uphold the profession's integrity, despite the potential backlash.

Leong Choon Kit (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2016, with the headline 'Valuable lessons in integrity and vigilance'. Print Edition | Subscribe