SINGAPORE - The National University Hospital (NUH) said it has taken steps to improve communication and the coordination of transfers between its emergency department (ED) and delivery suite.
This includes clinical reviews of expectant patients in the ED while awaiting transfer, a hospital spokesman told The Straits Times on Tuesday (April 5).
This follows an incident where a 36-week pregnant woman, who had been taken to the hospital by ambulance for bleeding, waited at its ED for two hours. Her baby was later found by doctors to have no fetal heartbeat at the labour ward.
The woman’s husband had claimed in a March 21 Facebook post about the incident that no one had attended to his wife for two hours after she arrived at NUH in an ambulance on March 15.
He also claimed that she was left "bleeding profusely" for the two hours.
In a subsequent post on March 31, after meetings with the hospital, he clarified that the nurses at NUH had checked on his wife at intervals.
He also said her bleeding had subsided at the hospital, and added that the miscarriage may not have occurred at the hospital's ED.
Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary had told Parliament about the hospital’s move earlier on Tuesday.
Responding to questions by Progress Singapore Party Non-Constituency MP Hazel Poa and other MPs, Dr Janil said NUH had investigated the matter thoroughly and reviewed its processes in consultation with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Singapore's director of medical services.
"(Its) clinical care processes are appropriate, but there were some areas for improved communications and the coordination for transfers between the ED and the delivery suite. NUH has implemented these improvements," he said.
Dr Janil said the couple acknowledged on Facebook that the woman was not left unattended for two hours and that she had received attention and care from the ED team from the time she arrived.
"They further noted that the sad outcome of the pregnancy was not the result of her experience at the hospital," added Dr Janil.
He said details of the case will not be divulged due to confidentiality reasons and because the couple had requested for privacy.
In a statement on March 23, NUH chief executive Aymeric Lim apologised for the incident and said the hospital should have done more to provide closer monitoring and care to the woman.
Mr Edward Chia (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) said on Tuesday that the couple, who are under his constituency, were unable to seek answers for five days and received a response from a patient care officer only after the husband's Facebook post went viral.
Mr Chia asked if MOH will be assessing how hospitals can improve on its provision of critical information to patients.
Dr Janil said NUH, after looking into how it provided information to reassure the couple, recognised that the way it did so could have been improved.
"This process review was done in consultation with MOH and the director of medical services and the lessons will be learnt and shared across our healthcare system," said Dr Janil.
He also responded to Dr Wan Rizal Wan Zakariah (Jalan Besar GRC), who asked how healthcare workers can be better protected when such allegations arise.
Dr Janil said all allegations need to be investigated, adding that the best protection for the healthcare workers is a quick and thorough establishment of the facts.
"Nevertheless, it can be taxing and draining on the healthcare workers who are involved and we have services that are available for counselling and psychological support for the healthcare workers that are within the system and are working in these situations," he said.
"At root, however, it would be helpful if when allegations and incidents are raised, that these are based on facts rather than speculation," Dr Janil added.