MOH: Delay in Disclosing Hepatitis C Outbreak Was Not Politically-Driven

Posted on Oct 20 2015 - 10:00am by Redwire Singapore

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Health Minister Gan Kim Yong’s Press Secretary has rubbished the allegation that the delay in disclosing the recent Hepatitis C infections at SGH was due to political reasons.

Ms Lee Bee Khim said the allegation was “completely baseless”, and those who claim so are insulting the professional integrity of public servants.

“Medical professionals and public officers in MOH and SGH sought to perform their duties professionally and objectively. They acted in the interest of patient safety and to minimise risks to patients. Political calculations played no role in their consideration of the proper course of action.”

“The Minister for Health was first informed about the matter on Sept 18. He directed that it be made public, and that a full public explanation be given.”

Ms Lee said that the timelines for key events in SGH and MOH have been made public, and that an independent review committee is still looking into the possible causes of the infection.

She said the committee is also studying the flow of information in SGH and MOH.

“As the Minister for Health has 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.”

Ms Lee was writing in response to a commentary by the Straits Times, which compared to the disclosure of information to an American sitcom in one of its commentaries.

She slammed the Straits Times for “repeating gossip while claiming to air opinions” and said that Singaporeans expect higher standards of journalism from our newspapers.

The first cases of Hepatitis C infection at SGH were discovered in April this year.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong was only officially informed of this infections on September 18.

By then, 22 people had already been affected.

The MOH and SGH only revealed the outbreak to the public earlier this month, giving rise to suspicions that the delay could have been due to the General Election in September.

 

This is Ms Lee Bee Khim’s letter in full:

I refer to Ms Rachel Chang’s commentary in The Sunday Times (“More questions than answers in hepatitis C timeline?”; Oct 18).

Ms Chang suggests that public officers and medical professionals, in both the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and the Ministry of Health (MOH), may have delayed the disclosure of information to the minister and the public for political reasons.

She offers no evidence for this serious allegation. Neither did she put the allegation to the ministry and give it a chance to respond. Instead, she quotes a scene from an American TV political comedy to lend colour to her story.

The allegation is completely baseless. Medical professionals and public officers in MOH and SGH sought to perform their duties professionally and objectively. They acted in the interest of patient safety and to minimise risks to patients. Political calculations played no role in their consideration of the proper course of action. To suggest otherwise impugns the professional integrity of these public servants, who are unable to reply to defend themselves.

The Minister for Health was first informed about the matter on Sept 18. He directed that it be made public, and that a full public explanation be given. Ms Chang makes much of the minister being “officially” informed on Sept 18, implying that he knew unofficially before that. For good measure, she compares this to the situation in the American comedy. This, too, is totally baseless.

The timelines for key events, in SGH and MOH, have been made public. The independent review committee is still looking into the cause(s) of the infection, and the flow of information in SGH and MOH.

As the Minister for Health has 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.

It is irresponsible of Ms Chang to impute improper motives to the medical professionals and public officers concerned without any evidence.

Straits Times journalism cannot consist of repeating gossip while claiming to air opinions. Singaporeans expect higher standards of journalism from our newspapers, especially a paper of record.

Lim Bee Khim (Ms)
Press Secretary to the Minister for Health

 

 

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