SINGAPORE - Ms Tan Soh Chin, the Ministry of Health's (MOH) chief nursing officer, has encouraged Singapore's nursing fraternity to "stay positive" in the wake of the hepatitis C outbreak at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) earlier this year.
In a note posted on the MOH Facebook page on Wednesday (Dec 9) - a day after the Independent Review Committee (IRC) released its report of the incident - Ms Tan, 59, cautioned that the case will continue to generate publicity.
"Nurses being the largest workforce and working closely at patients' bedside 24/7 will surely be of media attention," she wrote.
"In the next few days and weeks, it will be a very tough and difficult period for nursing and especially CN Tracy and her team in SGH," Ms Tan wrote, referring to SGH's chief nurse, Dr Tracy Ayre.
Acknowledging the SGH nursing team's dedication and hard work through the years, Ms Tan encouraged the fraternity to stay positive and be open to accept that there are areas of improvement.
"And importantly, to take the opportunity to stress to our nurses on patient safety and strict adherence to infection control protocols and measures," she added.
Ms Tan also expressed confidence that the SGH team will eventually regain the trust and confidence of their patients and families.
"During this trying period, may I urge all of you stay united and strong as One Nursing Team to support one another."
Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat, in a Facebook post on Wednesday evening, lent his support to Ms Tan's note.
"In SGH and other Healthcare Institutions, our doctors and nurses put in a lot of hard work and dedication to care for their patients," Mr Chee wrote.
He added that the Health Ministry is there to support and and work with healthcare professionals as they work to improve systems and processes. "We will walk this journey together. And we are determined to do better, to enhance safety and well-being of our patients."
The IRC said in its report submitted to Health Minister Gan Kim Yong that lapses, chief among them poor infection control, had led to the hepatitis C infections in the two SGH renal wards.
Twenty-five patients were diagnosed with the virus, with the infection a likely contributing factor to seven of the eight patients who died.
There were also gaps found in the MOH's infectious diseases reporting system, the report said.
Mr Gan, who addressed the media on Tuesday, said MOH would set up a task force led by Mr Chee to enhance the processes for handling infectious disease outbreaks.
SingHealth, the parent organisation of SGH, will also convene a panel to assess if any disciplinary action should be taken against SGH staff.