Addressing a specific section of the remarks made by TOC Chief Editor Terry Xu on his Facebook page about POFMA, the Ministry of Health (MOH) alleged that “Terry Xu’s/The Online Citizen’s statement that there was a “Hep C cover up prior to the GE2015” is false.”
The Online Citizen, however, disagrees.
In a Facebook post, MOH highlighted the Independent Review Committee (IRC) report on the Hep C incident in 2015 which found “no evidence of deliberate delays by SGH [Singapore General Hospital] or MOH in escalating the Hepatitis C outbreak, let alone a cover up”.
MOH added, “The timeline of key events was disclosed by MOH. Questions on the incident were raised in Parliament, to which the Minister for Health provided full responses.”
Sharing the MOH post on Facebook, Gov.sg, the official Facebook channel for the Singapore government, echoed the same assertion, saying “This is false” in reference to Terry’s post.
Responding to these claims, TOC on its own Facebook post says it disagrees with MOH’s statement as the ministry took Terry’s comments out of context. TOC even provided an excerpt of the IRC report summary.
First, TOC recounted the details of the Hep C incident in 2015, providing a timeline of events.
On 6 October 2015, SGH revealed that 22 people had been infected by the Hep C virus (HCV) at its renal ward earlier this year and three more were detected in further tests. Of the 25 patients in the HCV cluster, 20 were more susceptible to infections before and after undergoing kidney transplants.
The IRC found that of the deaths of those patients, HCV was likely a contributory factor to the death of seven cases.
TOC said in its post, “It is undeniable that the infections took place from April onwards and that information was withheld from the public on the discovery of such a large number of infections at the SGH renal ward.”
In his own Facebook post, Terry wrote about the use of POFMA: “So effectively, if someone whistleblows during an election or just prior, to something the nature of the Hep C cover up prior to the GE2015, the ruling party can throw a takedown or correction order on the story or statement by the whistleblower, only for the story to be proven correct after the election is won without the voters knowing what actually happened.”
TOC asserted that the context of the cover-up is about the disclosure of the occurrence of the outbreak – not on the management of the outbreak itself.
Using this incident as an example, TOC explained that a whistleblower within the system could have made public the unnaturally large numbers of infections at SGH to the media or public, either in May when the 8th case was detected or in July when the 20th case was detected.
In Terry’s example, given the negative information released, the statement made by this hypothetical whistleblower could have been marked as a falsehood under POFMA, and the information would have been proven correct only after the election.
As such, TOC asserted “it is wrong for MOH to state that Terry’s comment on a possible cover-up to the nature of the Hep C incident is false”.