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    Apr 05, 2016

    Hepatitis C outbreak: Revealing names can create 'blame culture'

    HEALTH Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday that naming the people responsible for last year's hepatitis C outbreak at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) will not help patients in the long run.

    The reason is that it could create a "blame culture" in healthcare institutions.

    He told Parliament that it is more beneficial "to encourage a learning culture to make our hospitals as safe as possible for the patients".

    "In deciding what to disclose, we have to bear in mind the longer-term impact on our healthcare system and healthcare workers, and strike a balance," he said.

    Mr Gan made the point in his reply to Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera, who asked for the names of those disciplined over the outbreak, as well as details of the penalties they received.

    Last year, 25 kidney patients admitted to SGH between January and September were diagnosed with hepatitis C infections. Eight people died.

    The independent review committee tasked with investigating the outbreak said poor infection control and a slow response were to blame. Sixteen senior staff - 12 from SGH and four from the Health Ministry - were punished.

    The penalties meted out included "warnings, stern warnings and financial penalties".

    Mr Gan said the warnings would remain on the staff members' service records.

    "But the greatest penalty is not these disciplinary measures," he noted. "For everyone involved, including those who had provided direct care to the affected patients, we will carry with us the pain and regret of this incident for a long time to come."

    The tragedy has also led SGH to strengthen its infection control practices. It has stepped up staff training and engaged international consultants to review its clinical processes.