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SDP calls for Minister of Health to take responsibility for Hep C incident

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) calls for Minister for Health Mr Gan Kim Yong to take responsibility for the Hepatitis C episode which took place during April to June this year that had 25 patients infected and claimed seven lives.

The press release which was signed off by Dr Chee Soon Juan, SDP's Secretary-General, pointed out that the incident is the largest recorded hospital outbreak of hepatitis C in Asia and one of the largest in the world with tragic consequences for many families, yet the outbreak was allowed to "smoulder for months before the public and, in particular, those at risk were alerted".

SDP goes on to state that the report released by the Internal Review Committee (IRC) appointed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) over the Hepatitis C infections saga "puts the blame squarely on the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) staff and seemed eager to absolve the MOH of its responsibilities over the matter".

The IRC had been convened to look into the outbreak on 28 September – which contributed to the deaths of seven patients – released its report yesterday, citing a combination of overlapping factors, such as poor infection control and sloppy practices at SGH, as leading to the incident. MOH has since announced that it will put together a taskforce to look at the recommendations of the committee and determine an action plan.

The findings of IRC is said by the party to be contradicted by the report itself as the IRC also states that “from late April onwards” – which was when the infections were first discovered with MOH being informed through three of its divisions serially.

SDP highlighted that this raises the question as to when the serious information already circulating in the different divisions of MOH was communicated to the highest levels of authority which can only be cleared up with the release of emails and all other communications between those involved.

SDP says that it is not satisfactory for the MOH-appointed Committee to merely conclude that within MOH, there was no single division with clear responsibility and capability to deal with the issue, resulting in a gap in ownership.”

The party went further to note that the responsibility and the ownership of the tragic event which resulted in the deaths of several people clearly lies with the Minister for Health and as the chief officer of the Ministry, the Minister for Health is ultimately responsible for the efficient and proper communication between the various departments within his ministry.