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2 more SGH patients test positive for hepatitis C

The Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has confirmed that two more of its patients who have passed through its renal ward between January and June have tested positive for the hepatitis C virus.

In a statement on Friday (23 October), SGH said that it has informed the patients and their families, and will arrange for appointments with its hepatologists to advise them on the treatment options.

The hospital also added that it is, however, unclear if the two are part of the cluster which was affected by the outbreak in its renal ward between April and June.

SGH said genotyping and phylogenetic studies are still being carried out to determine if the patients are part of the affected cluster.

Prof Fong Kok Yong, Chairman of the Medical Board, said: “Both patients are currently well. While we are still in the process of determining whether they are part of the cluster, our priority is to ensure that the patients can access timely and appropriate medical care. We will monitor their conditions closely and provide them with assistance if necessary."

SGH said it has so far screened 601 patients who had stayed in the ward between January and June, and that 543 of these have tested negative and one positive as at 21 October.

Thus far, 23 patients have been identified as part of the cluster which was affected in the outbreak, which was first detected on April 17.

The news was made public on 6 October.

Eight of the patients have died, with five of them having been identified and confirmed as being affected by the outbreak itself. On Friday, SGH confirmed that one of the patients it had been trying to contact for the screening had died from cancer. But based on the patient's medical history, the hospital has ruled out hepatitis C as a cause of death.

“In our continued efforts to contact patients for screening, we are saddened to learn that one of them had passed away in a palliative care setting due to advanced cancer," Prof Fong said. "Based on our review of the patient’s medical history, we have ruled out hepatitis C as a contributing cause.”

In its 15 October statement, the SGH said that "11 patients have declined screening due to their frail health."

"The Hospital will continue to engage their families and should they decide to be screened, we will facilitate."

It is unclear if these patients have agreed to be tested.

SGH also said then that while it was contacting the patients for testing, it had learned that 30 of them had passed away since their discharge.

"Most of these patients were terminally ill and were discharged to spend their last days at home or in a palliative care setting," SGH said. "Many had end-stage renal disease, with some opting for no further intervention."

Prof Fong said that "the causes of death of these 30 patients were end-stage renal disease, cancer, ischemic heart disease or pneumonia."

"Based on our review of their medical histories, we have ruled out hepatitis C as a contributing cause.”

As for the hospital's staff themselves, SGh said a total of 309 staff have been screened, of which 305 results are ready. They were all tested negative. 4 test results are pending.