New Task Force to Plug Gaps After Hep C Outbreak

Minister of State (MOS) for Health Chee Hong Tat will lead a task force, to be set up shortly, to plug gaps highlighted by the Independent Review Committee (IRC) that examined the hepatitis C outbreak at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH). 

MOS Chee said the panel had highlighted "gaps in how we detect and respond to uncommon and unusual infections", which will be the focus of the task force. Learning from international best practices to adapt to our local context, it is expected to complete its work by the middle of next year. 

Many experts and MPs weighing in on the issue noted the importance of sticking to existing protocols, while the Workers' Party suggested that a retired and respected medical professional be appointed as a joint head of the task force.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health (MOH) sent a reminder to hospitals yesterday (9 Dec), stressing that they must report acute hep C cases within 72 hours. 

Experts, including a member of the IRC, said such incidents should be reported sooner rather than later, instead of hospitals waiting to finish their investigations or trying to solve the problem all by themselves.

But would hospitals turn to MOH quickly enough?

One health expert suggested that since SingHealth and the National Healthcare Group had been formed, there had been a slight disconnect between MOH and the healthcare clusters.

However Ang Mo Kio MP Koh Poh Koon, who used to be a colorectal surgeon, called for people not to overreact, saying: "In the larger context, it is an unusual occurrence; it is a rare incident in the long history of Singapore's healthcare system."

What matters more to patients is the hospitals' long-term performance, he said.

Do you think our healthcare system is effectively following up on the hep C outbreak? Share your thoughts with us!

Sources: “Task force to study best practices in disease control in wake of SGH hepatitis C outbreak” (The Straits Times, 10 Dec 2015); “Hospitals reminded to report acute hepatitis C cases quickly” (The Straits Times, 10 Dec 2015)

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