Whether Singapore General Hospital (SGH) was timely in reporting information will be one of the issues which the Independent Review Committee, tasked with investigating how hepatitis C infections there occurred, will examine.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, stressing the importance of transparency, said yesterday (9 Oct) that the committee would critically look into the timeline of events provided by SGH to see whether there were gaps in the process.
These include "the timeliness of SGH's response, how crucial information is reported, and whether there are areas that need to be tightened and improved upon, such as safety protocols and information flow".
On Tuesday (6 Oct), SGH made known that 22 kidney patients had contracted hepatitis C infections while receiving treatment in the hospital. It first suspected the cases were linked as early as mid-May though tests confirmed this only later.
On Wednesday (7 Oct), MOH released a sequence of events in response to media queries on why SGH took so long to make the information public.
In his statement, Mr Gan said: "If there are gaps, we will close them. If there are weak areas, we will correct them. And if there are shortcomings, we will improve."
Public hospitals have also issued details of their infection control procedures, such as minimising the use of multi-dose vials and tracking infections in high-risk wards.
Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) said that although it uses around 700 types of injectable drugs, only 13 make use of multi-dose vials - small bottles that contain more than one dose of medication.
The National University Hospital (NUH) said that it has not observed any unusual trends of hepatitis C infections among its kidney patients. It added that when the Health Ministry's independent review committee publishes its findings, it will review existing practices and work with the ministry to make any recommended changes.
Changi General Hospital (CGH) carries out surveillance of infections across the hospital, as well as more targeted tracking of specific infections in high-risk units. In the event of an outbreak, its protocol includes identifying cases, searching for the causes, and implementing control and preventive measures.
Sources: “Independent panel to review SGH response to hepatitis C cases", “Public hospitals explain their infection control measures” (The Straits Times, 10 Oct 2015)