Health Ministry responds to allegations of negligence at nursing home

SINGAPORE - The Health Ministry (MOH) has responded to a Facebook post questioning how it has handled an allegation of negligence at a nursing home.

The initial complaint was filed in 2016, after the condition of a patient, Mr Ang Rong Sheng, deteriorated sharply following a stay at Orange Valley Nursing Home in Clementi. The home was then owned by private equity firm KV Asia Capital, before its management changed hands last year.

Mr Ang, who was 64, died of pneumonia last month.

In a widely shared post last week, son-in-law Davis Ong said the issue has not yet been resolved: "What is taking the ministry so long despite the gravity of such a case?"

The MOH said last Saturday night, in response to queries from The Straits Times, that its inquiries are still underway.

"The investigations have taken more time, as there were multiple allegations made by Mr Ang's family against the nursing home," a ministry spokesman said.

He added that nursing homes are governed by the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act (PHMCA).

"If there are any breaches to the PHMCA, MOH will take appropriate actions against the licensee of the nursing home, which could include prosecution, suspension or revocation of the licence, or a composition fine."

If a healthcare professional is at fault, the MOH could also refer the person to the relevant professional board for disciplinary action.

Mr Ong's Facebook post stated that Mr Ang was admitted to the Orange Valley home after a stroke. But 20 days later, he was rushed to a public hospital severely dehydrated and in a critical condition.

Mr Ang was eventually taken to a different nursing home, where he remained "unresponsive, non-communicative... and fully bed-bound" until he died, wrote Mr Ong.

Mr Ong, a 39-year-old engineering specialist, told ST last Thursday night that his father-in-law's condition had seemed to worsen each time the family visited him at the Orange Valley facility. However, staff told them that this was normal.

"I had no reason to doubt qualified nurses," he said. "My wife has been very emotionally affected by the incident, which has drained the whole family."

In a chain of e-mails between Orange Valley and Mr Ong's wife, the home said that Mr Ang was fed at his bedside instead of in the common dining area due to "behaviour issues" over a period of 11 days. However, it was not able to find records of his food intake.

"We sincerely apologise for these lapses," it wrote. It also offered to waive fees related to Mr Ang's hospitalisation "as a gesture of apology".

Orange Valley Healthcare was owned by private equity firm KV Asia Capital. In 2017, Singapore Press Holdings acquired it.

When ST approached KV Asia, it referred all queries to the current Orange Valley management.

An Orange Valley spokesman said last Friday that it was aware of the 2016 case and empathises with the family over their loss.

"As this case happened under the previous owner KV Asia, the current management is working with MOH on providing records where available on the case," he said.

"The family members have not been in touch with the Orange Valley management since SPH's acquisition in April 2017," he added.