Singapore hospital suffers wave of hepatitis C
Singapore’s largest hospital apologized Tuesday after 22 kidney patients were infected with hepatitis C, with four dying in a rare outbreak at the prestigious facility.
The infections at the government-run Singapore General Hospital (SGH) involved patients admitted to one ward between April and June.
Hospital officials said while the four fatalities had other serious conditions, they “are not able to rule out the possibility” that hepatitis C could have been a factor in their deaths.
Singapore’s health care system has been rated among the best in Asia and government hospitals are well-funded.
Patients from around the world fly to Singapore for treatment at SGH and other hospitals.
“We would like to apologize unreservedly for the grief, pain and anguish this has caused our patients and their families,” SGH chief executive Ang Chong Lye said in a statement.
The Ministry of Health ( MOH) has formed an independent committee to review the findings of an internal investigation carried out by the hospital.
The Singapore Tourism Board says foreign patients spent SG$832 million ( US$584 million) in 2013 for treatment in the country, which encourages “medical tourism.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) website says the hepatitis C virus is bloodborne, and the most common modes of infection are through “unsafe injection practices, inadequate sterilization of medical equipment and the transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.”
About half a million people die annually from hepatitis C-related liver diseases, according to WHO, the United Nations’ health watchdog.